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Close-up picture released of space snowman, the most distant object ever explored

This Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 image made available by NASA on Thursday, Jan. 24 shows the Kuiper belt object Ultima Thule, encountered by the New Horizons spacecraft. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute via AP

The space snowman visited by NASA on New Year’s Day is pitted all over and has a bright “collar” between its two fused spheres.

READ MORE: Icy object found more than a billion kilometres beyond Pluto looks like a snowman

These are the newest details to emerge about Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever explored.

A close-up picture taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft right before its closest approach on Jan. 1, and released Thursday, shows lots of little pits on Ultima Thule. They’re less than a half-mile (0.7 kilometers) across. There’s also a much bigger, circular depression on the smaller lobe, considered the snowman’s head. Scientists don’t know if these are impact craters or sinkholes.

Categorized as a contact binary, the approximately 20-mile-long (32-kilometer-long), reddish Ultima Thule has both light and dark patterns. The brightest spot is where the two lobes connect. Scientists say the varied shading may help explain how the ancient object was formed, as the solar system was emerging 4.5 billion years ago.

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WATCH: NASA releases new images of snowman-shaped rock

Click to play video: 'NASA releases new images of snowman-shaped rock' NASA releases new images of snowman-shaped rock
NASA releases new images of snowman-shaped rock – Jan 3, 2019

Lead scientist Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute promises even better pictures during the next month. It will take almost two years for New Horizons to transmit all the data from the flyby, 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) away.

At such a vast distance, it takes more than six hours for radio signals to travel one way. New Horizons is already more than 19 million miles (30.5 million kilometers) beyond Ultima Thule.

Launched in 2006, the spacecraft became the first visitor to the dwarf planet Pluto in 2015. Ultima Thule was its second target. A third destination — even deeper inside the so-called Kuiper Belt on the frozen fringes of our solar system — could be possible in the 2020s.

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