New Horizons took photos of Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever explored.
NASA released 3D images of Ultima Thule this week, located in the Kuiper Belt.
According to the space agency, the effect was achieved by combining images taken at different viewing angles.
Four billion miles from Earth, Ultima Thule’s set of images was processed by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) – a telescope aboard the New Horizons spacecraft.
“These visions provide a clearer picture of the overall shape of Ultima Thule,” says the mission’s principal investigator, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (BRI).
“Now we can use this rich, three-dimensional view to help us understand how Ultima Thule has come to have its extraordinary shape,” said John Spencer, deputy scientist for the New Horizons project at SWRI.
Scientists studying Ultima Thule are fascinated by the primitive condition of the object, which receives so little light and heat from the Sun that its chemistry and structure have remained frozen in time since they were formed 4.5 billion years ago.
With the help of the New Horizons spacecraft, the experts intend to get more accurate information about Ultima Thule within a year, a time they estimate for the spacecraft to find the mysterious object finally.
“We will be in the Kuiper Belt until the end of the 2020s, so we have almost a decade to look for another object and hope to find something,” Stern said.
Scientists expect the probe to reach farther distances in the future.
“In this case, we will be probing no more than 4 billion, but at 5, 6 or 7 billion miles from the Sun,” he says.