Ultima Thule revealed in new detail with fresh flyby image

A new image captured minutes before NASA’s New Horizons probe zipped by a rocky object in the Kuiper Belt on New Year’s Day shows the dual-lobed world — nicknamed Ultima Thule — is covered with intriguing fractures and a large crater-like depression that could provide clues about the early history of the solar system.

The picture released Thursday shows Ultima Thule — officially named 2014 MU69 — in sharper detail than images downlinked by the New Horizons spacecraft in the hours and days after its encounter in the Kuiper Belt on Jan. 1.

While the earlier images showed Ultima Thule’s shape and color, they did not have the resolution to discern finer details, such as craters and textures scientists are eager to see in their quest to better understand how icy, rocky material coalesced to form bigger objects, eventually forming the solar system’s planets.

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