“Meet Ultima Thule”


And Ultima and Thule, according to New Horizons' principal investigator Alan Stern at today's NASA press briefing, the informal names the team have given the two lobes of the red object out in the Kuiper Belt New Horizons spent New Year's encountering. The contact binary connected by a neck of material indicates two objects that came together and stuck sometime in the distant past when these kinds of interactions were leading elsewhere in the solar system to accretions that would eventually form the planets and their moons.

New Year, New Day, New Image of Ultima Thule

01 January 2019 image of Ultima Thule by New Horizons spacecraft and sketch of object and rotation courtesy James Tuttle Keane
During a morning press briefing aired on NASA TV on New Year's Day 2019, New Horizons mission team leaders revealed the latest best image of Ultima Thule. Still a blur, the Kuiper Belt body's shape is more apparent in this latest image. Still unclear: are the two lobes connected or are they in fact two separate objects orbiting each other? The pole of the object was pointed toward the spacecraft, meaning Ultima Thule rotates from that perspective like a propellor. Artist and planetary scientist James Tuttle Keane has helped visualize this geometry in his illustration included next to the image.

Pluto and Charon in Color and in Tantalizing Detail

 [Post edited on Monday, June 22, 2015 to correct my misunderstanding about the provenance of the remarkable color image below.] Tonight I was browsing the latest raw images of Pluto and Charon taken by New Horizons today from only 27.7 million kilometers away and I realized that when you zoom in, Charon is just beginning … Continue reading Pluto and Charon in Color and in Tantalizing Detail

Šteins Flyby Animated

Along with first images, anaglyphs and initial data results from Rosetta's successful flyby of Asteroid (2867) Šteins, mission team members put together an animation of the flyby: More Information Rosetta Rosetta Blog Press Release: "Steins: A diamond in the sky" Related Books [amazon-product]0387726721[/amazon-product] [amazon-product]1402025726[/amazon-product] [amazon-product]038777517X[/amazon-product]

Planetary Provenance – Venus

Venus is the Earth-that-could-have-been and the Earth-that-still-might-be.  Our so called sister planet orbits second from the Sun. Cloudy, hot, and unhospitable to life as we know it, Venus demonstrates as well as Mars why comparative planetary science can greatly improve understanding of our own planet. The greenhouse effect on Venus results in a poorly understood phenomena … Continue reading Planetary Provenance – Venus

Planetary Provenance – Mercury

I will be speaking at the Sunday, September 7 meeting of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix about "Images of Mars and Interplanetary Science." This series of posts in preparation for the event will explore current spacecraft activities in planetary science. After the astronomy revolt that left the solar system with eight planets, four dwarf … Continue reading Planetary Provenance – Mercury

Closest Enceladus Flyby Yet

Cassini took this image of Enceladus' water ice plumes on November 27, 2005.  New pictures and other data from the most recent flyby on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 are expected on Thursday, March 13, 2008.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute - "Jet Blue" NASA's Cassini spacecraft has successfully completed the closest flyby of Saturn's mysterious … Continue reading Closest Enceladus Flyby Yet

MESSENGER Returns First Image of Never Viewed Side of Mercury

Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington - "MESSENGER’s First Look at Mercury’s Previously Unseen Side" A heavily cratered side of the planet Mercury never before seen has been revealed by the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft. A single image was released by NASA this evening after … Continue reading MESSENGER Returns First Image of Never Viewed Side of Mercury

Armadillo Aerospace’s Latest Competition Attempt Fails

With the moon visible overhead, Armadillo Aerospace unsuccessfully attempted to win the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge at the Wirefly X PRIZE Cup this weekend at Holloman Air Force Base. The only competitor of nine ready to go for the event, Armadillo Aerospace, led by John Carmack of Doom and Quake fame, experienced both successes … Continue reading Armadillo Aerospace’s Latest Competition Attempt Fails