New Horizons probe captures images at record distance from Earth

New Horizons probe captures images at record distance from Earth

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that its New Horizons spacecraft has recently taken the farthest ever images from Earth, breaking a previous record set by Voyager 1's "Pale Blue Dot" taken in 1990. At that time, it set the record for being the first photos to be taken at the greatest distance from the planet.

For a couple of hours, this New Horizons image of the so-called Wishing Well star cluster, snapped on December 5, 2017, was the farthest image ever captured by a spacecraft. At the time of shooting the space station was at a distance of 6.12 billion kilometers from Earth. In a span of just a few hours on December 5, the craft trained its camera first on the glittering "Wishing Well" star cluster (seen below) and then on two objects in the Kuiper Belt (seen above), the huge band of rocks and dwarf planets that rings the outer fringes of our solar system. That was followed up with the shots of the Kuiper Belt two hours later.

They might not look like much, sure―the above images are the closest ever taken of objects within the Kuiper Belt―but it's a landmark moment for space photography all the same.

The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1. This made Voyager 1's record unmatched for almost three decades.

New Horizon's principal investigator Alan Stern said in the statement that the unmanned, piano-sized probe, launched in 2006, "has been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched". Flight controllers at a Johns Hopkins University lab in Laurel, Maryland, will awaken the spacecraft in June and start getting it ready for the flyby. This investigation is expected to answer the longstanding question if the target is actually comprised of two objects. Data is stored in a solid-state recorder (the only moving parts in these flash memory devices are the electrons) on New Horizons and is then transmitted via radio waves.


MU69, which is found more than 6.5 billion kilometers away, shot past in front of a star on July 17, 2017.

KBO MU69: Single Body Or Binary Pair?

In the process, it sent back of the distant world, which for decades had appeared as little more than a smudge to even the most advanced telescopes on Earth.

The team also determined that MU69 is around 30 kilometers in length as a single body.

Only the fifth spacecraft to travel beyond the solar system's gas giant planets, after Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, New Horizons is now continuously measuring plasma, dust, and neutral gas in its environment.

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