Fifty years ago, with the help of science and technology, mankind finally walked out of the earth and saw the world outside the earth. The first space outside the earth is the solar system that has existed for more than 5 billion years, and mankind must first explore the mysteries of the solar system in order to go to the stars.
According to our current exploration and understanding, the solar system can be roughly divided into inner and outer layers, namely the inner solar system and the outer solar system. The inner solar system is mainly composed of eight planets and asteroid belts, and the farthest position is in the orbit of Neptune, about 30 AU from the sun.
The outer solar system is bounded by the ecliptic plane outside Neptune. The space beyond the ecliptic plane is the range of the outer solar system. This range is very broad. Compared with the inner solar system, the outer solar system is much broader, complicated and mysterious. Inside the outer solar system is a disk-shaped area that wraps the entire inner solar system, which we call the Kuiper belt.
In fact, there are many similarities between the Kuiper Belt and the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. They are composed of a large number of small celestial bodies, but the Kuiper Belt surrounds the entire inner solar system and has a large area. There are asteroids, comets and other celestial bodies in it There are many, in addition to these there may be some small celestial bodies that subvert our traditional celestial theory.
The Kuiper belt is not the inner boundary of the outer sun. Through the Kuiper belt, it is a vast interstellar space. When you travel through the interstellar space for a period of time, you will enter the most complex and mysterious area of the solar system, which we call the Oort cloud.
The Oort Cloud is the true boundary region of the solar system, which can extend as far as about 10 trillion kilometers, which is nearly a light-year away. Oort is a spherical cloud cluster that encloses the solar system, which is full of various celestial bodies and many active comets, and is about 50000-100000 astronomical units away from the sun.
The above is the composition of the entire solar system. From these simple descriptions, we can also see that the real mysteries of the solar system are mainly concentrated in the outer solar system. Far away from the sun, the starry sky environment can maintain the most primitive state. Scientists believe that some small celestial bodies on the edge of the solar system may have not changed much since the birth of the solar system, and maintained a primitive state. Through these primitive small celestial bodies, perhaps we can uncover the mystery of the formation of the solar system.
To explore the mystery of the edge of the solar system, it is impossible to rely on astronomical telescopes alone, because the sun’s rays received there are very small and appear very dark. We can’t really understand most of the celestial bodies and more specific conditions. If you want to learn more about the secrets of the outer solar system, you need to send a probe.
Of course, with the current scientific and technological strength of mankind, we have no way to go deep into the Oort Cloud. With the speed of the current human spacecraft, it is impossible to enter the Oort Cloud without more than 5,000 years, but to traverse the entire Oort Cloud. Cloud, it takes tens of thousands of years.
Therefore, even if humans want to explore the outer solar system, our current technology is mainly concentrated in the Kuiper belt. On January 19, 2006, NASA launched the first probe in human history to mainly explore the Kuiper Belt, which is New Horizons.
The main mission of New Horizons is to detect Pluto and its largest satellite Charon (Charon) and the asteroid group located in the Kuiper Belt. At the same time, New Horizons is also the fastest spacecraft launched by mankind so far. After 9 years of voyage, in 2015, the New Horizons probe flew over Pluto and took a clear picture of Pluto at close range.
After completing the detection of Pluto and its moons, New Horizons continued to move towards the Kuiper Belt to explore the mysterious asteroids here. On January 1, 2019, New Horizons flew over Ultima Thule, the most distant celestial body ever studied by mankind.
This small celestial body is much smaller than Pluto. Its longest distance is only 35 kilometers. The main reason to explore this small celestial body is that this small celestial body is very special. It has many differences from ordinary asteroids. So what is so special about this small celestial body? New Horizons took a photo of Ultima Thule at close range. Scientists were surprised when they saw the photo. This small celestial body opened the eyes of scientists and broadened our understanding of celestial bodies.
As the Ultima Thule photo data taken back by New Horizons is up to 6.65GB, it takes a relatively long time to complete all the processing of these photos. According to the photos analyzed so far, we can see that this small celestial body is indeed very special. First of all, its color is red.
I believe everyone has seen red planets in the solar system. The most conspicuous one is Mars. The fire is red because of the iron oxides in it. So how does Ultima Thule’s red color come from? Is it also caused by iron oxide? In this regard, scientists are also puzzled. We must know that in the asteroid series, we have not yet discovered the second small red celestial body.
The red color of Mars is caused by the long-term oxidation of the rocks on its surface. However, at the edge of the solar system, the environment here is very different from the inner solar system. In addition, it is a small celestial body and cannot be Oxidized surface environment. If it is not caused by oxidation, how did the bright red surface of this small celestial body form? To unravel this mystery, we need more research, and there may be major discoveries that are not interesting.
In addition to the mysterious red feature, Ultima Thule has another feature that surprised scientists, and that is its strange shape. From the photos, we can see that this small celestial body is not our usual spherical shape, but is formed by connecting two spheres, one large and one small.
The two large and one small spheres are not standard spheres, but a flat shape. If a suitable analogy is used, they look like a red pancake or a snowman-shaped pancake. Scientists have also found a peanut-shaped object similar to this in the solar system, but that object may not be flat, and a small flat red object like Ultima Thule has been discovered for the first time by humans.
So how did such a strange celestial body form? Through preliminary observation and analysis, scientists believe that this small celestial body was formed in the early solar system, and that two small celestial bodies gradually merged in a gentle collision state. As for its flat shape, it may be related to the special orbit of the solar system.
The discovery of the Ultima Thule celestial body has completely changed mankind’s understanding of the conclusions of small celestial bodies in the Kuiper Belt. It may hide secrets about the origin and evolution of the solar system. It is believed that there are many strange celestial bodies like this in the Kuiper Belt, but humans’ current scientific and technological strength is limited, and the exploration of the Kuiper Belt is still small and one-sided. I believe that we will have more advanced detectors in the future. Able to complete the exploration of the entire Kuiper Belt, then walk towards the Oort Cloud, and finally walk out of the solar system.