Meet Ultima Thule: Cosmic Snowman

As readers know, I totally geek out with NASA missions and this week is no exception. This is the long awaited image of Ultima Thule (“beyond the known world”) and it is provided by the most distant ever exploration of a Solar System object. The previous record was the New Horizons image of Pluto in 2015.  Ultima Thule is 1.5 billion km further out. Thought to be the shape of a bowling pin, it turns out to be a 4.5 billion-year old, brick-colored cosmic snowman in the cold of deep space. Closer to home: this week saw China land the first probe on the dark side of the Moon.


It orbits the Sun on the edge of the Kuiper belt, where its debris and dwarf planets composed of hundreds of thousands of objects was only itself discovered in 1992. Ultima was not even known to exist until 2014.

Formerly, Ultima was believed to be two objects as scientists had dubbed the bigger sphere Ultima and the smaller one Thule. Thule is estimated to be 9 miles while Ultima is thought to be 12 miles. It is “a primordial planetesimal” that it unaltered by the sun and thus in its new original condition. That makes it enormously interesting to scientists.

For me it is just a hair-on-end moment. This object has been out there for billions of years in a region that we only relatively recently discovered. We now have its picture from a man-made object speeding at nine miles a second out into the unknown of space beyond our universe.

Ok, nerd out over.

28 thoughts on “Meet Ultima Thule: Cosmic Snowman”

  1. Definite evidence of accretion, however weak the gravitational force that brought these two blobs together. And 6 light-hours away. I want to understand the navigation sensing that made possible this rendezvous so far away. When the James Webb Telescope is launched later this year, fasten your seat belt — we’ll see 100X further into the deep cosmos than done with Hubble.

  2. Snowman? Seriously?

    Left wing kooks have engaged in a massive brainwashing effort to make your brain work properly, and you somehow have the nerve to describe the stimuli using a male reference? My God, the oppressive tyrannical patriarchy totally consumes your subconscious. BTW, do not for a second think it goes unnoticed by those of us who are woke that you chose to describe the space rock as a WHITE male object as well.

    After all of the brainwashing, do you really not understand how hurtful it is to women and blacks to compare the space rock to objects we associate with WHITENESS and MALES? You are literally committing violence against them with this hate speech.

    You’ve learned nothing.

    Feel shame. And go spank yourself.

  3. Even more amazing than Ultima Thule itself is the fact that information can be sent back to the Earth from that distance.

    1. Then even more amazing is the continued information from the Voyagers, far, far further outbound…

      Yes, the advances in telecommunications in the past 50 years is impressive indeed. But recall just how long ago the Voyagers were designed, constructed and sent off forever …

  4. “beyond our universe”

    Well, no. Not even beyond our solar system. And recall that the two voyagers have only recently exited the heliopause and both are far, far beyond New Horizons.

    But even so, I don’t think that the voyagers have yet reached the Oort cloud. I suppose it extends about halfway to the nearest star…

  5. Amazing and incredible, but also worth of note that China has just now landed a probe on the dark side of the moon without much fanfare.

    1. Better to call it the back side, or hidden side. The sun shines for two weeks every four just like the front side.

      And yes, good for the Chinese.

  6. Pluto, its moons, and also Ultima Thule are Oort cloud objects composed of leftovers. Composition of all will be similar.

  7. Professor Turley……..It is quite endearing to see someone so excited, still, about the marvels and wonders of space exploration and discovery. And of course Ultima Thule is just ” beyond ” incredible!
    You should have grown up in Houston…….It was so exciting when the Space program started…My school friends and I were with other Houston school students in the stadium at Rice U., just 4 blocks from my family’s home, one sunny school day when President Kennedy arrived and spoke to us about putting a man on the moon! We were like “whaaaaaa??”
    Most of my friends and I knew someone who worked at NASA. Houston really loved and embraced the new frontier.
    In those early years, my father would pack up my siblings and I and we’d make the “long drive” out to Ellington Field (AFB) to watch an astronaut, like Alan Shepard return home. The space hero would step off of the plane onto the tarmac just a few yards in front of us! And it was usually very late night, or in the middle of the night, but still so thrilling! Who could sleep when an astronaut was returning home from outer space?!

  8. Wow! That is a crisper image than I’ve seen before. I always thought it looked like a blurry bowling pin. Do we know its composition yet? Is it two ice comets that collided and stuck, or is it primordial rock? It is a bit eerie to see something still in the condition of the Begining.

  9. All these bits and pieces of useful objective information and some day one day.no matter how many generations it takes….there will still be new objects to discover and explore I det uendelige universet

  10. Very impressive for a billion miles past Pluto.

    A mere 12 watt transmitter sending bits which take 6 hours and 4 minutes to arrive.

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