This image taken by New Horizons' Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is the most detailed of 2014 MU69 so far. By their estimates, this would have happened about 4.45 billion years ago, or 50 million years after the Solar System formed.
After the news conference, Stern told GeekWire that Ultima Thule and other nicknames relating to 2014 MU69's features would give way to formal names to be approved by the International Astronomical Union, but it's too early to say which names would be submitted to the IAU by the New Horizons discovery team. But when better, closer pictures arrived, a new consensus emerged Wednesday.
"Reaching Ultima Thule from 4 billion miles away is an incredible achievement". The image on the left is an enhanced color image, the center image is a higher resolution image of the object and the right image shows the color overlaid onto the higher resolution image.
Traveling at a speed of almost 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) per second, New Horizons' didn't take long to zip past Ultima Thule, which is only about 20 miles (30 km) long and 10 miles (15 km) wide.
The first sharp picture of the "city-sized world" the New Horizons probe travelled 6.5 billion kilometres to explore has been unveiled, to the delight of NASA.
"The data we have look fantastic and we're already learning about Ultima Thule from up close".
The first high-resolution images of a 21-mile tall snowman-shaped object that lies one billion miles beyond Pluto have been released by Nasa.
Despite the slender connection point, the two lobes are "soundly bound" together, according to Moore.
It has now been confirmed Ultima Thule is red in colour, "a lot like the Mordor Macula region of Pluto's large moon, Charon", co-investigator Carly Howett said. Note the reduced red colouring at the neck of the object. Scientists say no impact craters could be seen in the latest photos. Scientists believe the icy exterior is probably a mix of water, methane and nitrogen, among other things.
The snowman picture was taken a half-hour before the spacecraft's closest approach early Tuesday, from a distance of about 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers).
"New Horizons is like a time machine, taking us back to the birth of the solar system". With this new data, NASA hopes to learn more about the formation of dwarf planets like Pluto as well as the start of the universe; Ultima Thule might not have changed much since the Big Bang days, giving us vital clues as to how our solar system formed.
"This thing was born somewhere between 99 percent and 99.9 percent of the way back to T-zero (liftoff) in our solar system, really unbelievable", Stern said. It was also a vast improvement over images snapped the day before, which provided more hints about Ultima Thule's shape and rotation.