New Horizons’ farewell image of Ultima Thule

For many reasons, mostly political but partly ethical, I do not use Google, Facebook, Twitter. They practice corrupt business policies, while targeting conservative websites for censoring, facts repeatedly confirmed by news stories and by my sense that Facebook has taken action to prevent my readers from recommending Behind the Black to their friends.
Thus, I must have your direct support to keep this webpage alive. Not only does the money pay the bills, it gives me the freedom to speak honestly about science and culture, instead of being forced to write it as others demand.


Please consider donating by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:

If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


You can also support me by buying one of my books, as noted in the boxes interspersed throughout the webpage. And if you buy the books through the ebookit links, I get a larger cut and I get it sooner.

Ultima Thule's shape

The New Horizons science team has released the last sequence of images taken by the spacecraft as flew away after its flyby.

The link has a nice video of that sequence. However, it is the information gleaned from this sequence that is most interesting.

The newly released images also contain important scientific information about the shape of Ultima Thule, which is turning out to be one of the major discoveries from the flyby.

The first close-up images of Ultima Thule – with its two distinct and, apparently, spherical segments – had observers calling it a “snowman.” However, more analysis of approach images and these new departure images have changed that view, in part by revealing an outline of the portion of the KBO that was not illuminated by the Sun, but could be “traced out” as it blocked the view to background stars.

Stringing 14 of these images into a short departure movie, New Horizons scientists can confirm that the two sections (or “lobes”) of Ultima Thule are not spherical. The larger lobe, nicknamed “Ultima,” more closely resembles a giant pancake and the smaller lobe, nicknamed “Thule,” is shaped like a dented walnut.

The image on the right shows their preliminary guess at Ultima Thule’s overall shape, as suggested by these new images.

The spacecraft has still not sent back the images it took during its closest approach, so there are likely more surprises coming.



  • Lee S

    “The spacecraft has still now sent “… Americanism or typo?
    Belated happy birthday Bob!

  • wayne

    Amazing stuff!
    –sometimes our mathematically idealized diagrams just don’t accurately represent reality. The math always works pretty well, but it’s truly outa-this-world. Looks like an electron cloud for an atom. Think about it– it’s Newtonian vs. quantum (something like that).

    How far away is New Horizon’s from Earth, at light-speed? (They once had a graphic of “current location & distance” but I’m not readily seeing that at the website.)

    “Americanisms” — that’s a great Topic for a thread. Do you have any favorites?

    I may have asked this before– do we know the density or gravity of Ultima-Thule?
    Do we know the orbit of this thing with accuracy?

  • Bishop

    Next time you are on the Space Show please ask one of Dr. Livingstons experts if an ion drive engine already in orbit could help deorbit the “Starship” at a slower velocity.

  • Andrew_W

    pity they didn’t use flash photography on the way passed.

  • Lee S

    @ Wayne… I once made a young American boy cry with laughing when I said aluminium …. So that is my favourite Englishism
    My favourite Americanism is probably the senseble way you spell “thru”… Much easier than the nonsensical “through” we use!

  • wayne

    Thank you. (I obviously wasn’t paying attention as I rapidly clicked through (thru) the site.)
    Round-trip light time = 12:18:47 (hh:mm:ss)

    “Set the controls for the heart of the sun”
    Pink Floyd

    Good stuff.
    Are you familiar with the (American) cartoon, “Ruff n Reddy?” They had a story arc where they visit “Munimula” which is aluminum spelled backwards…
    Reference “thru,” that’s an artifact of advertising lingo, signage, and sloppy English instruction. (similar in kind, to when they use “XMas,” instead of Christmas.)
    Do you folks still use “torch” to describe a flash-light?

    (If we’re taking a Vote—Americanism’s is a great Topic for a thread!)

    If you ever visit North Carolina, and someone asks “to be carried to the store,” they mean “can you drive me to the store?”
    (and if they ask for “a couple of bars,” they mean the “2 mg Xanax tablets” not a Pub.)
    In Minnesota, they talk a lot about “a hot dish,” (a casserole) and they use a declarative “come with?” to mean, “are you going with us?”

  • wayne

    “Signs You were born in the Midwest”

  • Andi

    Do the British hotel clerks still ask if you want to be “knocked up” in the morning?

  • Foxbat

    Are there any other targets planned for New Horizon

  • Edward

    Lee S and wayne,
    I first came across “thru” on mechanical drawings, as in drill the hole thru.

    Also, “torch” seems to be a better descriptor than “flashlight,” not only because it replaces the function of a traditional torch but because the light usually does not flash.

    I don’t want to be “knocked up” in the morning or at any time.

    Finally, when I was on a little league baseball team, I would regularly shag fly balls. After the movie “The Spy Who Shagged Me” came to America, the word “shag” had another meaning, so now shagging fly balls could mean something completely different.

    Foxbat asked: “Are there any other targets planned for New Horizon

    The team will propose sending New Horizons ‘to explore even deeper in the Kuiper Belt, to use our telescopes onboard to study objects in ways you can’t from the Earth,’

    we hope to hunt down one more KBO — one more Kuiper Belt object — and make an even more distant flyby in the 2020s

    NASA would have to approve an additional extended mission for all of this to happen.

  • wodun

    @ Bishop

    Very clever! Orbital construction or rendezvous is usually only applied to going away from Earth.

    @ Lee S

    Americanisms or otherwise known as the correct way for sane freedom loving people to speak ;)

    Have you seen Alex Steele on YouTube? He is a blacksmith native to the UK but who has recently migrated to Montana where one can be free. In honor of his move, he sells swag where t-shirts say freedomheiht instead of Fahrenheit. I suspect our host’s audience would enjoy his movies. A young skinny guy with some muscles to appeal to the ladies, who beats on metal to make things to appeal to the males.

    Wayne, link us up with something good!

  • wayne

    you flatter me, sir, but it’s not that easy! (They don’t have the entire-universe of clips available from which to choose.)

    Where American Accents Come From

  • wayne

    Schrödinger’s discovery of the shape of atoms
    -allowed hydrogen orbital configurations
    Scribblegoose 2013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *