The gif, released by NASA and tweeted by Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, which co-engineered the New Horizons spacecraft, shows the clockwise, "propeller-like" rotation of the Ultima Thule asteroid as it was photographed by the probe's onboard Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) earlier this month.
New 📸! Around and around: This gif shows the propeller-like rotation of #UltimaThule as seen by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard @NASANewHorizons as the spacecraft sped toward its close encounter. @nasa https://t.co/lBM4L8EctG pic.twitter.com/8PhJHsvVFa— Johns Hopkins APL (@JHUAPL) 15 января 2019 г.
In a press release, NASA explained that the New Horizons probe approached to within just 17,100 miles (28,000 km) of the asteroid, adding that the images were processed and sharpened to enhance detail.
"The rotation period of Ultima Thule is about 16 hours, so the movie covers a little under half a rotation," NASA explained. Scientists will now " use these images to help determine the three-dimensional shape of Ultima Thule, in order to better understand its nature and origin," the release added.flew past the 2014 MU69 Ultima Thule asteroid, located at the edge of our solar system, some 6.5 billion km from the Sun, on 1 January. As its name indicates, the asteroid was first discovered by the Hubble orbital telescope in 2014. NASA dubbed it the "Ultima Thule", meaning "The Edge of the World" in March 2018. Astronomers say the flyby will give scientists important clues on how planets, moons and other objects in the solar system are formed.
Social media users had fun with the new gif, making a variety of less than serious remarks about the asteroid's shape, saying it reminded them of snowmen, potatoes, and even "space peanuts," asking excitedly when new images could be expected.
Should’ve named it the snowman☃️😆— Edward Hederman (@funtimeseddie) 15 января 2019 г.
Can we expect new, even more detailed, images downloaded in the short future?— Angelo Tomassini (@AngeloItalia5) 16 января 2019 г.