When NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by the strange world of Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, three decades ago, it imaged a world as stunning as it was puzzling, revealing massive, dark plumes of icy material spraying out from its surface, a captured Kuiper Belt object that evolved, a potential ocean world with active plumes, an energetic ionosphere and a young, unique surface. Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft ever to have flown past Neptune, leaving a trail of intriguing, unanswered questions that NASA hopes to answer.
“We’re looking into the well-preserved remnants of the ancient past,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado about Ultima Thule. “There is no doubt that the discoveries made about Ultima Thule are going to advance theories of solar system formation.
It’s possible that there could be a massive disc and a ninth planet, said Antranik Sefilian at Cambridge’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. “With the discovery of each new trans-Neptunian Object (TNO), we gather more evidence that might help explain their behavior.”
Scientists at Southwest Research Institute studied an unusual pair of asteroids and discovered that their existence points to an early planetary rearrangement in our solar system. These bodies, called Patroclus and Menoetius, are targets of NASA’s upcoming Lucy mission.