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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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"Pancakes" in the Kuiper Belt
Hugh Bollinger

"Pancakes" in the Kuiper Belt

New Horizons Image processed (credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins/SW Res. Inst/National Astronomy Observatory)

When NASA's New Horizons probe zipped by a Kuiper Belt object known as Ultima Thule this past  New Years Day, the first images showed what appeared to be two potato-like objects orbiting together. Now using image processing tools on the gathered data, Ultima Thule looks more like two pancakes squashed together. According to NASA:

"images taken at New Horizons' closest approach to the Kuiper Belt object suggested that both lobes of Ultima Thule were nearly perfect spheres barely touching each other. But as more data were analyzed, including evocative crescent images taken 10 minutes after closest approach, a 'new view' of the object's shape emerged. Ultima Thule more closely resembles a pair of "pancakes".

NASA researchers created an animation of the distant pair of strange objects.

NASA also created a graphic to illustrate how the bizarre, dual object spins around itself like a dumbbell.



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