More results from New Horizons

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Today’s press conference did not release any significantly new images. In fact, they did not provide much new information at all. They noted that based on the data obtained so far, they have confirmed that Ultima Thule has no moons closer than 100 miles, or further than 500 miles, but they have not yet gotten the data that looks in that gap.

They created a stereoscopic image using two images produced thirty minutes apart. This helps tell us where the bumps and depressions are on the surface, something that cannot be clearly determined from the first image because the sun was shining directly on it, producing no shadows. From this it appears that the smaller lobe has a very significant bump. More data from New Horizons will have to be downloaded to confirm this.

The reddish color of Ultima Thule places it in the center of a class of Kuiper Belt objects dubbed cold classical objects. This will help them better determine its make-up as more data arrives.

Overall, this press conference was mostly hype. They don’t yet have enough data from the spacecraft, and won’t have it for weeks. I’m therefore puzzled why they bothered today, unless they did it simply to keep the hype up about the mission so as to encourage funding to look for another object to fly past.



  • Matt in AZ

    I believe a more detailed image is to be released this afternoon, but I’m not sure why the press conference was held a few hours earlier than that.

  • Orion314

    An alternative theory as to Comet / NH Thule morphology :
    “shortcut to ~7 :45 , Thule looks like many comets. Hint, gravitational attraction doesn’t seem to hunt.. Electric universe. food for thought.

    also see my previous post as to JPL as deep state players. Talk about self hype. What else could there be from SoCal?

  • Daniel Peters

    I believe the New Horizons space craft communications system is designed to have some autonomy regarding download queuing & the “money shots” may have been pushed down the queue. That plus any delays in the Deep Space network may have caused the required pictures to not be received in time for analysis/vetting before the news conference.


    It could be that sometimes downloads take longer than you estimated!

  • wodun

    Maybe they just wanted to keep the public informed without any nefarious purpose behind it. I don’t think the term hype fits but I didn’t watch the press conference.

  • Orion314

    Wodun, you really should check out the JPL confs on youtube, if that’s not hype . let me know.

  • I don’t suppose it would do any good to point out JPL stands for the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calfornia, whereas New Horizons was done by APL, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, in Baltimore, Maryland. There’s a slight difference.

    That said, Alan Stern seems to think he’s a rock star, and looked silly posing with Brian May (an actual rock star whose a planetary scientist in his spare time).

  • Avi Feit

    Why are the lobes spherical. There is not enough gravity to pull them into a sphere. Is there some sort of adhesion mechanism we’re seeing? Do the lobes have some sort of surface tension like a water droplet?

  • Matt in AZ

    No new pics came out later in the day – looks like Daniel Peters was right about the downloads.

  • Max

    Avi Feit;
    There are three forces at play. Gravitation is the obvious main factor but the snowballs are too small for gravity to be the only consideration. Static electrical charge may act as a far reaching attractive element for molecules in space, a static charge space filter of sorts. (Electric universe? Electrical charges can be any orders of magnitude stronger than gravity)
    Sublimation would also be a factor, warm molecules are attracted to cold spots.
    Being so far from the sun, warmth from the local fluff and the solar wind, as thin as it is, would find the snowman very attractive.
    If I had to guess, and it’s just a guess, the two snowballs developed near each other on the same trajectory. They grew large enough to slowly attract each other in a soft, very soft collision. We could learn much from a core sample.

    The most exciting part of discovery is this object looks like a giant pile of rocket fuel!
    Enough to supply our present technology fuel for hundreds if not thousands of years.
    If carefully calculated out, such a slow object could be re-directed towards Saturn and/or Jupiter in a breaking maneuver, eventually to park ideally in earths shadow Lagrange point. If not, lunar orbit will work fine as much of the ice will sublime to the polar regions of the moon. Solar collector/heat shield to protect it from melting away…. Our space future is looking promising.

  • wayne

    What are the dimensions of Ultima Thule?

  • See:

    It is a contact binary 31 km (19 mi) long, composed of two joined bodies 19 km (12 mi) and 14 km (9 mi) across that are nicknamed “Ultima” and “Thule”, respectively.

  • wayne

    Thank you.

  • Stephen

    I’m 75 and worked within the aerospace industry in the 60’s & early 70’s with companies in greater San Fernando Valley area including Litton, Rocketdyne, Aerojet , Hughes, Teledyne, Bendix, JPL, Lockheed, and others big and small.

    I can’t recall one time in all those years that I attended a meeting or event in which the engineers or managers acted emotionally jumping around clapping and patting each other on the back like children.

    What I see with today’s ‘professionals’ in the aerospace industry (as as other industries) makes me cringe. What happened to professionals acting professional? i.e. adj. exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

  • Stephen: As I have noted at length here and then again only earlier this week, we have become a childish culture. Very disturbing. It bodes badly for the future.

  • Farside

    Here is a video of the Houston Space Center Control Room at the time of the Apollo 11 landing. They were quite subdued; even though, some of the controllers may have turned blue and smoked a few cigars.

  • Edward

    Stephen and Farside,
    There are some differences between New Horizons and other events, such as the Apollo 11 landing.

    New Horizons was a delayed event. The ground control crew no longer had control over the event. They could afford to express cheerfulness. Apollo 11 controllers, on the other hand, not only had immediate responsibility over the landing but once the lander was on the surface they had two minutes to determine the safety of the mission and call a “stay/no stay.”

    Robert has a point about the change in our culture. Back in the 1960s, we did not applaud weddings as though they were entertainment. These days we do. Compare the “Father of the Bride” movies. The 1950 version, with Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracey, has no applause at the ceremony, but by 1991 applause at weddings was routine, as can be seen in the Steve Martin version.

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