Arrokoth comprises of two connected lobes that have a uniform composition and smooth terrain (Picture Courtesy: NASA)
Arrokoth comprises of two connected lobes that have a uniform composition and smooth terrain (Picture Courtesy: NASA)

New Horizons space probe provides insights about planet formation

ANI | Updated: Feb 15, 2020 20:55 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Feb 15 (ANI): NASA's interplanetary space probe New Horizons provided the science community with fresh new insights about the process of planet formation after it flew past a celestial body named Arrokoth, which is situated at the fringes of our solar system in the Kuiper Belt.
According to Fox News, this week NASA told in a statement that the New Horizons spacecraft zipped past Arrokoth -- also classified as 2014 MU69 -- on January 1, 2019, at a distance of 4 billion miles from our planet. This brief rendezvous has given scientists a wealth of information bout Arrokoth's shape, geology, colour and composition.

"Arrokoth is the most distant, most primitive and most pristine object ever explored by spacecraft, so we knew it would have a unique story to tell," New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado said in the NASA statement.
"It's teaching us how planetesimals formed, and we believe the result marks a significant advance in understanding overall planetesimal and planet formation," he further added.
The images of Arrokhot that surfaced after the flyby show that the body comprises of two connected lobes that have a uniform composition and smooth terrain, reported Fox News.
By analysing the data, scientists have figured out that these lobes "were once separate bodies that formed close together and at low velocity, orbited each other, and then gently merged to create the 22-mile long object."
The NASA release explained that "this indicates Arrokoth formed during the gravity-driven collapse of a cloud of solid particles in the primordial solar nebula, rather than by the competing theory of planetesimal formation called hierarchical accretion."
Elaborating further upon this celestial body's formation, NASA sated "Unlike the high-speed collisions between planetesimals in hierarchical accretion, in particle-cloud collapse, particles merge gently, slowly growing larger."
The findings based on the data provided by New Horizons were recently published in the form of three papers in the journal Science.
William McKinnon, the lead author of one of the papers (published on February 13, local time) -- who is also a New Horizons co-investigator from Washington University -- stated that "just as fossils tell us how species evolved on Earth, planetesimals tell us how planets formed in space."
"Arrokoth looks the way it does not because it formed through violent collisions, but in more of an intricate dance, in which its component objects slowly orbited each other before coming together," added McKinnon.
The New Horizons interplanetary mission was launched in January of 2006 atop an Atlas V rocket. It is currently at a whopping 4.4 billion miles away from Earth. (ANI)