Alan Stern, the lead investigator for the mission, said, "It's two completely different objects that are now joined together". At this resolution, each pixel of the image is 140 meters on a side.
The sun is 1,900 times fainter on Ultima Thule than it is on a sunny day on Earth.
"We were basically chasing it down in the dark at 32,000 miles per hour".
Pre-flyby observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope indicated that MU69's surface was red in color, and that has proven true - with the reddish hue indicating the presence of tholins, which are processed volatile ices.
This first data is a result from New Horizons approaching Ultima Thule with the sun behind the spacecraft, making it hard to see whether there are craters.
So, indeed, as predicted by the mission scientists, 2014 MU69 is what's known as a contact binary.
In 2015, New Horizons flew by Pluto, and found the planet is larger than previously thought.
"This is the first object we can clearly tell was born this way, and didn't evolve to look this way", Stern said.
Instead, the first images beamed down from the spacecraft show it resembles a snowman - or even the BB-8 droid robot from the "Star Wars" film series. The smaller, 9-mile-wide mass was given the nickname "Thule".
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"Think of New Horizons as a time machine that has brought us back to the very beginning of the solar system, to a place where we can observe the most primordial building blocks of the planets". Then the balls would have been gently drawn together by their mutual gravitational attraction, he said.
Scientists are keen to study Ultima Thule as it lives in a region that has been relatively untouched since the formation of the solar system, which in turn helps them better understand planetary formation. New Horizons scientists have begun to analyse the first data sent back by the spacecraft.
But Ultima is a further 1.5 billion km further out. Some of the data acquired by New Horizons might shed light on that.
When New Horizons left Earth in 2006, scientists did not even know about Ultima Thule's existence.
Clues about the surface composition of Ultima Thule should start rolling in by Thursday.
When asked about the Nazis' use of the term, Showalter confirmed that he was aware of the usage and said that the New Horizons team and NASA, including its legal department, decided that the original meaning was more prominent and outweighed the less savory connotations.
It's a moment that could define the future, but the name "Ultima Thule" is one from the past.
The MU69 story is only starting to unfold, Stern added. The full set of data will be a long time coming - trickling across the solar system over the next 20 months.
"We have a healthy spacecraft", announced Alice Bowman, Mission Operations Manager for New Horizons, to a cheering crowd of scientists, engineers, members of the media, and guests on Tuesday morning.
The hope is that the course of the spacecraft can be altered slightly to visit at least one more Kuiper belt object sometime in the next decade.