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

Ultima Thule is the most distant object ever explored by humans.
Image: A series of photographs made by the New Horizons spacecraft approaching the Ultima Thule object on Jan. 1, 2019.
A series of photographs made by the New Horizons spacecraft approaching the Ultima Thule object on Jan. 1, 2019.NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Get the Mach newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: Associated Press
By The Associated Press

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, the most distant object ever explored by humans.

Get the mach newsletter.

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 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.

Want more stories about space?

FOLLOW NBC NEWS MACH ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK, AND INSTAGRAM.