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This record-breaking picture was taken from 6 billion km away

11 February, 2018, 05:32 | Author: Ron Miles
  • This illustration provided by NASA shows the New Horizons spacecraft. The probe whipped past Pluto in 2015 and is headed to 2014 MU69 for an attempted 2019 flyby of the tiny icy world on the edge of the solar system

The false-colour images were taken at the furthest ever point from Earth captured by a spacecraft - they're also the closest ever images of objects in the Kupier Belt. New Horizons had traveled 6.12 billion kilometers when it took a grainy picture of the Wishing Well star cluster.

The image captured by New Horizons is from a distance father than that of the "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth taken by NASA's Voyager 1.

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Soon after the Pale Blue Dot picture was taken, the cameras were turned off on Voyager 1, leaving its record unchallenged for the next 27 years.

New Horizons snapped these two farthest-out shots, of Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85, on December 5, 2017. It finished its primary mission with the Pluto flyby in 2015 and is now on an extended mission to explore the Kuiper Belt, helping the U.S. to complete its reconnaissance of our solar system.

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New Horizons is just the fifth spacecraft to speed beyond the outer planets, so many of its activities set distance records. "Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings", says NASA.

Talking about the new milestone images is New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, who said, "New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched".

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New Horizons is sleeping now, resting up for its next big adventure. It's not just taking awesome photos on its path, but also carrying measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along the way, enabling astronomers to better understand the outskirts of our solar system. This belt is home to three officially recognized dwarf planets- Pluto, Haumea and Makemake. The transmission rate for New Horizons is only about 2 kilobits per second. It'll be the first up-close look of a Kuiper Belt object. "And now, we've been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history". On October 25, 2016, at 21:48 UTC, the last of the recorded data from the Pluto flyby was received from New Horizons.[14] Having completed its flyby of Pluto, [15] New Horizons has maneuvered for a flyby of Kuiper belt object (486958) 2014 MU69, expected to take place on January 1, 2019, when it will be 43.4 AU from the Sun. For now, New Horizons won't be sending home any snapshots.

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