/ Modified jan 4, 2019 2:34 p.m.

UA Scientists View Historic Photos of Flyby at Edge of Solar System

The New Horizons spacecraft took the first photos of planetoid Ultima Thule.

Thule color The first color image of Ultima Thule, captured at a distance of 85,000 miles. The image at right shows an overlay of the color image at left on the center image. Learn more.
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Scientists received the first pictures of the planetoid called Ultima Thule Tuesday.

The photos from NASA's New Horizon showed an irregular-shaped rock, and University of Arizona planetary scientist Veronica Bray says the data confirmed suspicions that Ultima Thule looked like a chicken drumstick, or a dirty snowman.

"More scientifically, it is a contact binary, so, two relatively small planetesimals impacted each other at such a low velocity that they didn't destroy one another, they merged," said Bray.

New Horizons made history by beaming back the first close-up pictures of Pluto in 2015. It flew just 3,500 kilometers past Ultima Thule. Mission controllers say the craft still has enough fuel to zoom by another object in the yet-unexplored Kuiper Belt, on the edge of the solar system.

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