In Brief

Nasa reveals first close-up pictures of Ultima Thule

Distant space rock looks like a ‘large red snowman’

Nasa has released its first close-up images of Ultima Thule, a 21-mile-tall lump of space rock that lies four billion miles away on the edge of the solar system.

Taken by Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft, the pictures reveal an unusual shape that looks like a snowman - suggesting Ultima Thule was originally two separate rocks that collided and stuck together.

The New Horizons fly-by smashes records for the “most distant ever exploration of a Solar System object”, reports the BBC. The previous record was set in 2015 when New Horizons flew past Pluto, three billion miles away.

The newly released images are just the first of thousands of photos taken by the probe in a region of the solar system called the Kuiper Belt – a distant collection of debris and dwarf planets.

More data from New Horizons will continue to be beamed back to Earth over the course of the next 20 months, with true higher-resolution images expected to start arriving in February, says The Guardian.

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