NASA probe "New Horizons" snaps farthest-ever photo from Earth

NASA probe “New Horizons” snaps farthest-ever photo from Earth

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.

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.

For a short time, this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) frame of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, taken December 5, 2017, was the farthest image ever made by a spacecraft, breaking a 27-year record set by Voyager 1.

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.

With its innovative imaging technology (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager), New Horizons immortalized several space objects, as well as some other dwarf planets in the Kupier Belt. This image is, for now, one of the farthest pictures from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. In 1990, the iconic probe captured a long-distance image of Earth, widely known as the "Pale Blue Dot" photo. That shot - which was, in fact, part of a composite of 60 images - came to be known as the "Pale Blue Dot," famously for depicting Earth as "a mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam". From here on out, every image it sends back will be the most distant image ever sent back.

For the two record-breaking Kuiper Belt object images, it took about 4 hours to transmit each image and 6 hours for the data to travel to Earth, Alan Stern, the principal investigator on the New Horizons mission, told Live Science.

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New Horizons continues to exceed expectations in its space wanderings.

In so doing, they also broke a record that had stood untouched since 1990, when the Voyager 1 spacecraft sent back a final glimpse of Earth before its cameras went dark.

"The Voyagers and Pioneers flew through the Kuiper Belt at a time when we didn't know this region existed", says Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, in another press release.

New Horizons is now in electronic hibernation.

Were you impressed by New Horizons' achievement? The next time scientists plan to bring it back online will be June 4, when the spacecraft will start preparing for a close encounter with a KBO named 2014 MU69 that's expected to happen on January 1, 2019.

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