Space rock 4 billion miles away could give clues about solar system’s early days

This is an Inside Science story.

(Inside Science) — As the ball dropped in Times Square this New Year’s Eve, the New Horizons spacecraft was fast approaching an approximately 20-mile-long space rock nicknamed Ultima Thule, located a whopping 4 billion miles from Earth. As the spacecraft zipped past the tiny world, it deployed a suite of seven scientific instruments to gather a treasure trove of images and measurements, which it has been slowly sending back to Earth for months. The data dumps will continue until the summer of 2020, but today scientists published their latest findings, based on the 10% of the captured data that had been transferred by March 1. Overall, the new findings paint a vivid picture of a tiny, cold and distant world that has likely changed little since it formed during the earliest days of the solar system, about 4.5 billion years ago.

“These discoveries have strong implications for how planetesimals and hence planets form,” Stern wrote.

The results were published today in the journal Science.

Inside Science is an editorially-independent nonprofit print, electronic and video journalism news service owned and operated by the American Institute of Physics.


Author: Tech Poster

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