By Ryan F. Mandelbaum
Nothing you encounter is truly “pristine.” Nearly every atom on our planet has been processed in some way, either by humans, the Sun, Earth’s core, or other influences. But on New Year’s Day 2019, the New Horizons mission flew past one of the most pristine objects in the solar system: Arrokoth, an object far beyond Pluto that has remained largely undisturbed since it first formed billions of years ago.
Today, scientists are releasing a trio of papers (1, 2, 3) digging deep into Arrokoth’s properties, its geology, and how it formed. Not only do they shed light on the true nature of the icy Kuiper Belt Objects in the distant solar system, but they provide strong evidence for a theory on how planets form more generally.
“We have made a major breakthrough in understanding the process of how planetary formation works,” Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, told Gizmodo.
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