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NASA's New Horizons Team Releases 3D Images Of Ultima Thule

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This 3D image of Ultima Thule can be viewed using the red and blue stereo glasses. NASA also released other 3D versions of the Kuiper Belt object.   ( NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory )

NASA’s New Horizons team released new stereo images of Ultima Thule in 3D. Even those without 3D glasses can have a cool new look at the Kuiper Belt object (KBO).

New NASA Images

The New Horizons team just released cool new images of Ultima Thule that aren’t just interesting to see, but are also scientifically valuable. The images were taken during the historic Jan. 1 flyby wherein the New Horizons spacecraft snapped photos with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 17,400 miles (28,000 kilometers) and 4,100 miles (6,600 kilometers) away from the KBO.

The team achieved the 3D effect by combining images taken at slightly different angles and creating a “binocular effect” that is similar to the way the slight separation between the human eyes allow us to see in 3D.

“We have been looking forward to this high-quality stereo view since long before the flyby. Now we can use this rich, three-dimensional view to help us understand how Ultima Thule came to have its extraordinary shape,” said New Horizons deputy project scientist, John Spencer.

Ultima Thule In Stereo

NASA released various stereo images of Ultima Thule. Apart from one that can be seen using 3D glasses, there is also an animation, and a “cross-eyed” one, and a parallel one.

This image is an animation of Ultima Thule that flickers between two of the images taken during the flyby, giving it a 3D look.
(Photo : NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory) Compared to the other three, this image needs no effort to enjoy. It is an animation of Ultima Thule that flickers between two of the images taken during the flyby, giving it a 3D look.
Meanwhile, to see the “cross-eyed” image, one must cross his or her eyes until the two images merge into one.
(Photo : NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory) To see the “cross-eyed” image, one must cross his or her eyes until the two images merge into one. If struggling to cross the eyes, it might help to hold an object between the eyes and focus on it first.

For the parallel image, one must not look at the two object side by side, but instead must look “through” the image and into the distance. This way, a third image will be formed in the middle, and that is where the person must focus.
(Photo : NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory) For the parallel image, one must not look at the two object side by side, but instead must look “through” the image and into the distance. This way, a third image will be formed in the middle, and that is where the person must focus.

Ultima Thule

Designated as 2014 MU69 with the minor planet number 485968, and nicknamed Ultima Thule meaning “beyond the known world,” this KBO is in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune’s orbit. To date, Ultima Thule is 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from the sun, making the Jan. 1 flyby the farthest planetary flyby in history.

A lot of the mystery surrounding Ultima Thule is its irregular shape. During the historic Jan. 1 flyby, it was determined that the shape of Ultima Thule’s two sections are not actually spherical, but that larger lobe is actually more pancake-like, while the smaller lobe looks rather like a dented walnut.

That said, even with the latest images of the KBO, it is still unknown as to how it got its unusual shape.

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