New Horizons Snaps Farthest Image Ever Taken From Earth

Saul Bowman
February 15, 2018

At first glance it might not look like much - but, with a fuzzy purple and green photo, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has made history.

Image of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, taken December 5, 2017, which temporarily broke the 27-year record set by Voyager 1.

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

And, NASA says they're the closest images yet of objects in this region. On December 5th of a year ago, it woke up and took a routine image of a star cluster called the Wishing Well to calibrate its camera, the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).

Voyager, by comparison, was 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers) from Earth when it captured its famous photo in 1990.

But the New Horizons photos are a worthwhile reminder that as technology improves, and as NASA probes and crafts work their way deeper and deeper into space, there's going to be a wealth of interesting, engrossing, and lovely photos as a result. This means that most of its activities are bound to set distance records.

New Horizons is headed toward a KBO dubbed 2014 MU69, one of more than 20 far-off chunks of rock and ice NASA hopes to observe during the spacecraft's mission. The date of the rendezvous is on New Year's Day, according to Cheng.

NASA program director Alan Stern said: "New Horizons has always been a first-time mission, the first to explore Pluto, the first to explore the Camping Zone and the fastest spacecraft ever launched".

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.

While en route to the Kuiper Belt and just two hours after taking the record-breaking routine calibration frame of the "Wishing Well", the spacecraft broke its own record by capturing images of the KBOs 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85.

During more than a decade of cruising through space, New Horizons has already made several flybys of planets in our Solar System. Given that the New Horizons is still making its way through the solar system, it's entirely possible there will be more incredibly distant images in the weeks and months to come. Should it surpass its extended mission, NASA plans to use it to study the outer heliosphere. The transmission rate for New Horizons is only about 2 kilobits per second.

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