Ultima Thule is the most distant object ever visited at 4.1 billion miles away and the New Horizon’s spacecraft passed within 3500km of it on January 1. The object is shaped like a rocky snowman and spins like a lopsided propeller facing the sun, tilted 90 deg from its orbit plane and is about 22 miles long. Its scientific interest lies in the fact that it was likely formed at the time of the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago but has seen little change since then. Thus it offers an opportunity to study the process by which planets were initially formed. The talk will explore the latest data from the mission and will also provide updates on the discovery of a buried ocean on Pluto.
The NASA Dawn space mission was launched in 2007 to explore two of the three proto planets in the solar system, Vesta and Ceres which are located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres contains 200 million cubic kilometers of water in its mantle which is more than all of the freshwater on earth. Vesta is 220km in size and in contrast is a water poor world with a metallic iron nickel core. In this talk the detailed images of these asteroids will be presented and the very interesting geography and geology of both asteroids will be discussed. Vesta for example has some massive craters with one called Rheasilvia being 19km deep with a central peak 23km above the crater floor.
The last part of the talk will be about the ESA’s Rosetta mission to the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko. It is the only mission to orbit a comet and it was able to study the comet as it moved towards the sun. One of its notable results was determining that the comet has a Deuterium to Hydrogen ratio 3x higher than on earth. This strongly indicates that earth’s water is not likely to have come from comets.
Mike Adler studied electrical engineering in college, went on to get a doctorate in solid state physics from MIT and then spent 30 years working for General Electric. There he developed semiconductors, a critical part of computers as well as trains and wind turbines, and later went on to manage large groups within the research lab. He has spent the last 10 or so years documenting objects millions and billions of miles away.