Evidence of water found on Ultima Thule
22, May 2019
Prelims level : Mains level :
- NASA has found evidence for a unique mixture of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface-the farthest world ever explored by mankind.
- Researchers are also investigating a range of surface features on Ultima Thule, such as bright spots and patches, hills and troughs, and craters and pits..
- Ultima Thule is 4 billion miles from Earth and has captured scientists’ curiosity since they discovered it had a snowman-like appearance.
- NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past the icy object nicknamed Ultima Thule in Kuiper belt.
- Ultima Thule is deep within the so-called Kuiper Belt, or Twilight Zone, well beyond the orbit of Neptune.
- It is a contact binary, with two distinctly differently shaped lobes. It consists of a large, strangely flat lobe nicknamed “Ultima” connected to a smaller, somewhat rounder lobe dubbed “Thule” at a juncture.
- The lobes likely once orbited each other until some process brought them together in what scientists have shown to be a “gentle” merger.
- The alignment of the axes of Ultima and Thule indicates that before the merger the two lobes must have become tidally locked, meaning that the same sides always faced each other as they orbited around the same point.