NASA's New Horizons snaps farthest images by any spacecraft

NASA's New Horizons snaps farthest images by any spacecraft

The routine calibration frame of the "Wishing Well" open star cluster was taken when the spacecraft was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion km) from Earth - making it, for a time, the farthest image ever made from our planet.

Prior to New Horizons' star shot, the image taken farthest from Earth was one of the Blue Marble snapped by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on February 14, 1990.

The image, which to the naked eye just looks like an eery green glow in between some cloud looking things, is actually something much cooler.

"And now, we've been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history", Stern said.

So how does New Horizons send back images, even blurry ones, through all that space?

Voyager 1's record remained unchallenged for almost three decades after NASA turned off its cameras shortly after taking the legendary shot.

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According to a statement by NASA, the probe snapped a false-color image of a group of stars known as "Wishing Well" on December 5, 2017 while it was 6.12 billion km away from Earth and en route to the Kuiper Belt, a circumstellar disk surrounding the solar system. As Ben Guarino reports for The Washington Post, the New Horizons spacecraft has set a new record, taking an image of objects in the Kuiper Belt while 3.79 billion miles from home. Voyager 1 shut off its camera the same year it captured the "Pale Blue Dot" image and Voyager 2 shut down its cameras after imaging Neptune in 1989.

New Horizons took more photos as it sped deeper into the cosmos in December.

Were you impressed by New Horizons' achievement?

According to the press release, New Horizons is now back in hibernation mode and will reawaken on June 4 to begin preparations for a January 1, 2019 rendezvous with 2014 MU69, which is almost a billion miles beyond Pluto. Each of those show a Kuiper Belt object: The one on the left is known as 2012 HZ84, and on the right is 2012 HE85. Now, it's zipping along at more than 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) each day - moving farther and farther out into our solar system.

New Horizons is still on an active mission to visit the Kuiper Belt.

NASA also plans for the spacecraft to observe at least two-dozen other KBOs, dwarf planets, and Centaurs - the former KBOS in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of giant planets. On January 1, 2019, the probe will fly by a small, frozen world in the Kuiper Belt called 2014 MU69, which orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto. But they're arguably among the most incredible photographic images ever.

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