News: NASA has renamed Ultima Thule as ‘Arrokoth, meaning ‘sky’ in the Native American Powhatan language.
- Ultima Thule is a Kuiper Belt object and the farthest object ever explored by any spacecraft. The object is officially named 2014 MU69.
- It is a contact binary that is single object with two lobes attached gently. NASA dubbed the larger lobe as Ultima and three time’s smaller lobe as Thule.
- In colour, Ultima Thule has a reddish hue which is believed to be caused by modification of the organic materials on its surface.
- NASA has found evidence for a unique mixture of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface.
- Further, a range of surface features on Ultima Thule, such as bright spots and patches, hills and troughs, and craters and pits have been observed. The largest depression is an 8-kilometre-wide feature, which researchers have named Maryland crater. It was likely formed from an impact.
- The Kuiper belt occasionally called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun.
- It consists of icy objects, which are remnants from the formation of the solar system. Pluto is also a part of the Kuiper Belt.
- The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006 by NASA. It is the first mission to explore the Kuiper belt.