back to article New Horizons snaps finish buffering: Ultima Thule actually two dust bunnies that got snuggly 4.5 billion years ago

More detailed images have emerged showing 2014 MU69 (aka Ultima Thule) is actually two distinct bodies, held together by the processes that form planets. The latest images transmitted by the New Horizons probe, as it continues the 20-month process of sending Earthwards all that lovely science data collected during its flyby, …

  1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Brilliant stuff!

    Great work by all boffins involved. I was also quite touched to hear (some of) Clyde Tombaugh's ashes were carried past Pluto, and now Ultima Thule aboard New Horizons.

    1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: Brilliant stuff!

      So, assuming the craft survives long enough and ignoring the fingerprints, sweat, hair and dander left on the Voyagers and Pioneers, that would make Mr. T. the first human interstellar traveler.

      Eventually and at least partially. Only several dozen millennia to exit the Oort cloud.

      I wonder when we'll know where the fully fuel-depleted, freely falling little robot is going to end up?

  2. Jellied Eel Silver badge


    More detailed images have emerged showing 2014 MU69 (aka Ultima Thule) is actually two distinct bodies, held together by the processes that form planets.

    Or sinews..

  3. DJV Silver badge

    Demonstrating a disappointing lack of imagination, scientists have dubbed the larger sphere (12 miles across) "Ultima" and the smaller (nine miles across) "Thule".

    Could have been worse... they might have called them "Little and Large" or, arguably even worse, "Cannon and Ball".

    1. Little Mouse

      Personally I like the name.

      There's something pleasing in the idea of putting a roof box on a sporty coupe.

      Fun, yet practical.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Ant & Dec?

    3. Hollerithevo

      Let's expand our horisons

      French & Saunders?

    4. Simon Harris Silver badge

      How about Stay and Puft after the Ghostbusters Marshmallow Man?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

          Thing 1 and Thing 2?

      2. Nolveys

        There is no Stay Puft, there is only THULE!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Big End and Little End.

    6. TRT Silver badge

      Eric and Ernie

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge


        How about "Pity" and "the Thule"?


    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why not "head" and "body"?

      Yes, it looks less like a snowman when in seen colour, though you could argue that it's still a "dirty snowman".

      On the downside, "dirty snowman" sounds too much like some unbelievably disgusting- and completely fictitious- sexual act made up by a couple of bored teenagers and posted to Urban Dictionary circa 2004. :-(

      (FWIW, I wrote that *before*- out of ill-judged curiosity- I decided to type "dirty snowman" into Urban Dictionary. Turns out there *is* a very NSFW entry with that exact name, albeit posted in 2010. And it's almost exactly what I'd have expected. Er, thank you "Cote Sloan"...!)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I didn't need to read that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          must be an acquired taste

    8. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      I'm rather unimaginative, I would have named them after me and the wife. Her cool bit being the smaller one, of course.

      Or maybe her and the cat.

      1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Wallace and Grommit

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Heck I love science & technology. Beers all round.

  5. MT Field
    Thumb Up

    That is tremendous

  6. steelpillow Silver badge


    What a bit of luck. The first object to be given a double-barrelled name in advance turns out to be a double object.

    The chances against that must be, er, astronomical. >ducks for cover<

    Naming them individually "Ultima" and "Thule" is not so much unimaginative as grabbing the moment to set an archetypal precedent. I only wish there were a double-beer icon here.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Astronomical

      A million to one, I believe

      [this is not the meme you're looking for, move along]

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Astronomical

        But still they clump?

      2. Saruman the White

        Re: Astronomical

        Million to one chances occur 9 times in 10.

        1. TheRealRoland

          Re: Astronomical

          Keep in mind though, 3 in 2 people are bad at statistics... so keep it simple :-)

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Astronomical

      For rather small values of luck ... They had a good idea that it was a contact binary in 2017. The name wasn't given until last year.

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Big Daddy

    See! I said it was the rubber duck's dad - you know, the one we attacked a while ago.

    I'm off to barricade my cellar!

  8. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    He'll be back again some day?

    ...and scientists theorise that smaller objects have settled in the valley, or "neck", where the lobes meet, giving a brighter appearance

    Nah, my money's on an interstellar scarf. Just wait for the further images when a giant carrot and a few large lumps of coal are found on the surface.

    We've had rubber ducks and now a seasonal(ish) snowmen. Nice to see that nature really does have a sense of humour. Top boffinry all round though!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He'll be back again some day?

      > " money's on an interstellar scarf."

      Looks a lot like cosmic grout.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The coming days and months will bring higher resolution imagery as the probe continues to squirt its data back to Earth."

    Apparently the transmission rate is 1000bps - described by a spokesperson as "glacial". There was a time about 50 years ago when a modem with that speed was considered almost impossibly fast.

    1. cray74

      There was a time about 50 years ago when a modem with that speed was considered almost impossibly fast.

      Heck, I irritated friends by bragging about a 2400-baud modem in the late 1980s. It gave me a serious advantage over their 1200- and 300-baud modems when playing the text-based Galactic Empires on BBSs.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        75 baud on an honest-to-god teletype when I was at college. If you got use of the VDU you could entice it to the dizzy heights of 300 post connection. That felt bloody quick at the time(!)

        Woe betide he who neglected to reset the sodding thing on disconnection, as a subsequent connection attempt would shit all over the modem at the other end and oblige an operator at the Poly to manually reset it. This invariably resulted in a formal complaint and a witch hunt for the culprit.

    2. nil0
  10. Stephen McLaughlin

    Great News!

    Love the first images and very much looking forward to the higher resolution ones that we'll see in the coming months.

    One thing to note, New Horizons flew by Pluto on July 2015 and it has taken all this time travelling at roughly 58,530 km/h to find the nearest object large enough to visit. Of course in Sci-Fi movies, asteroids are all over the place, almost unavoidable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great News!

      > "Of course in Sci-Fi movies, asteroids are all over the place..."

      No, they are usually said to inhabit "asteroid fields," whatever those are. Generally they're located directly between the protagonist and the intended destination.

  11. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Have to say, that's a neat bit of silicon sealant work holding the two spheres together.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge

      Nah, it's just the place where they knotted the nylon thread. The nylon was photoshopped away. There has to be a "Made in China" sticker in the back of that thing.

  12. Mephistro Silver badge

    "...blown by the sight of planetary formation caught in the act, so to speak."

    In a way it looks a bit like the sight of "human formation caught in the act". I guess that the reason the full res images will take so long to arrive is that most of the probe's bandwidth is being hogged by sending the video to Pornhub.

    1. The Nazz Silver badge

      speaking of blown away ...

      How would we, and indeed top notch boffinry, know whether or not, over the many billions of years, it ever had a third rock attached (attracted) to it, a rather lengthy (relative) sausage shaped rock?

      That maybe got broken off by an errant, angry passing female rock? Such force that it resulted in the ejection of 100's of millions of tiny rockettes that went on to seed other planetary formations.

      (Self edit : Stop NOW)

      1. Florida1920

        Re: speaking of blown away ...

        (Self edit : Stop NOW)
        That wasn't so hard, was it?

      2. Francis Boyle Silver badge


        for the pang of self-awareness.

  13. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Courtesy of wikipedia

    Thule (/ˈθjuːliː/ THEW-lee[1] Greek: Θούλη Thoúlē, Latin: Thūlē)

    It's not damn "Tooley" or "Tool", it's Thooley! Repeat after me "Th ... Th ...Th ..." Why can't those Yanks learn to speak English ... err.... Greek?

  14. MuTru


    "got snuggly 4.5 billion years ago"

    The constituent components of Ultima Thule probably date back to the formation of the solar system, but I have not yet seen any scientist suggest a time frame for the date of >contact< between the two bodies. What are you basing this on?

  15. AndyD 8-)&#8377;

    It is quite obviously a white ceramic teapot - and, unexpectedly, a saucer.

    1. John G Imrie


      Would this be Russell's other teapot?

  16. Winkypop Silver badge

    Bert and Ernie*

    It looks like a rubber duck too.

    * Extra points if that upsets the religious fundies...

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020