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'Space snowman' spins like a propeller in dramatic new NASA animation

Image: A series of photographs made by the New Horizons spacecraft approach
A series of photographs made by the New Horizons spacecraft approaching the Ultima Thule object on Jan. 1, 2019. -
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NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
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The tumbling space snowman is making its out-of-this-world film premiere.

Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission on Tuesday released the first stitched together animation of Ultima Thule (TOO-lee), the most distant object ever explored by humans.

The small, icy object is shown spinning end-over-end like a propeller. It is about 4 billion miles from Earth and looks like a reddish snowman with two fused-together spheres, extending about 21 miles (33 kilometers) in length.

The movie was put together from photos taken New Year's Eve and New Year's Day as the spacecraft made its closest approach, but not sent back to Earth until the last few days. The same spacecraft explored Pluto in 2015.

Ultima Thule rotates about every 16 hours so the time-lapsed movie shows seven of those hours.

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