NASA'S New Horizons probe snaps farthest image from Earth

Saul Bowman
February 10, 2018

This image made available by NASA on Friday, July 24, 2015 shows a combination of images captured by the New Horizons spacecraft with enhanced colors to show differences in the composition and texture of Pluto's surface.

In taking these images, New Horizon broke a record that had stood for almost three decades.

New Horizons continues its journey into the cosmos at a rate of about 700,000 miles a day.

The hazy pictures above may not look like much, but they're the farthest images a manmade spacecraft has ever made from Earth. The imager is one of seven instruments aboard the New Horizons spacecraft that reached Pluto in 2015.

The Kuiper Belt is similar to an asteroid belt, but further out from the Sun and composed of dwarf planets and frozen ice - rather than rocky bodies. In fact New Horizons broke it again two hours later when LORRI was turned toward Kuiper Belt objects 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85, the closest ever images of Kuiper Belt objects.

New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as so-called Centaurs - former KBOs in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the giant planets on the edge of our solar system.

"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts-first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. Carl Sagan, famous astronomer whose words on the "Pale Blue Dot" are widely known, requested the photo be taken. The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1.

The NASA New Horizons probe just set a new interstellar exploration record, taking pictures from further out in space than ever before - it snapped the shots you see above some 6.12 billion kilometres (3.79 billion miles) away from Earth.

New Horizons is reportedly healthy and everything is functioning as planned. The distance? Over 6.1 billion kilometers.

The Wishing Well star cluster, pictured December 5, 2017. The images of the Kuiper Belt objects are the closest images ever of the belt's objects and, now, officially the farthest from Earth. But that will not be true when New Horizons wakes up in August. Specifically, New Horizons is targeting 2014 MU69, a mysterious object (or pair of two objects) which Alan Stern, mission principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), has called "provocative" and a "scientific bonanza".

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