First high-resolution images of snowman-shaped Ultima Thule released by Nasa

The first clear image of Ultima Thule shows the object is a contact binary

Unlike in the inner Solar System, there are probably very few collisions between objects.

And as the New Horizons team suspected, this world is indeed reddish, and likely made up of different ices that have been subjected to space radiation for billions of years.

A NASA spacecraft travelling through space sent back pictures of the most distant object explored by mankind on Wednesday.

It was the first exploration of such a primitive - and distant - planetary object in human history.

The flow of images and scientific insights is expected to get stronger in the days, weeks and months ahead, as the spacecraft sends back several gigabytes of stored data at a rate of 1,000 bits per second. One day, they touched. Based on the preliminary data, scientists now believe Ultima Thule is a contact binary - two pieces of space rock that slowly came together over time.

This "new kind of world", as described by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, illuminates the early stages of our Solar System, 4.5 billion years ago.

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Time machine: There's more to Ultima Thula than meets the eye, and the images are just the start.

The shape of Ultima Thule had been the subject of speculation for years leading up to the flyby.

"#UltimaThule used to be two separate objects".

When asked about the Nazis' use of the term, Showalter confirmed that he was aware of the usage and said that the New Horizons team and NASA, including its legal department, decided that the original meaning was more prominent and outweighed the less savory connotations.

The object is so old and pristine that it's essentially like going back in time to the beginning of our solar system.

Instead, they focused on what the new images told them about planetary science.

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The latest images of Ultima Thule were taken from about 17,000 miles out, showing a formation that end to end measures about 19 miles in length, and has a rotation period of 15 hours, plus or minus an hour.

The early images do not show obvious signs of craters caused by impacts.

About ten hours ago, NASA shared a picture of the snowman-shaped Ultima Thule on Twitter.

The two objects came together at an "extremely slow speed", according to mission geology manager Jeff Moore.

"If you have a collision with another vehicle at those speeds, you may not bother to fill out the insurance forms", he joked. "This is a very dark object", says Cathy Olkin, the mission's deputy project scientist.

Ultima Thule sits in the Kuiper Belt, about 1.6 billion km past Pluto.

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Ultima was chosen as a follow-up object for study, coming after New Horizons' 2015 flyby of Pluto and its moons. Included in this will be a series of much higher-resolution images that will provide an even greater look at Ultima Thule, now the farthest object from Earth to ever be photographed by a spacecraft.

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