NASA's New Horizons snaps farthest images by any spacecraft

NASA space

On December 9th last, it carried out the most-distant course-correction manoeuvre ever, as the mission team guided the spacecraft toward a close encounter with a KBO named 2014 MU69 on January 1st 2019. Two hours later, it broke the record again with two images of KBOs that are also the closest-up image ever taken of any such object. In February 1990, Voyager 1 was exiting our solar system when it snapped the iconic "Pale Blue Dot" photo - a picture of Earth from over 6.06 billion kilometers away.

New Horizons is best known for taking stunning photos of Pluto back in 2015.

The routine calibration frame of the "Wishing Well" galactic open star cluster, made by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on December 5 previous year, was taken when New Horizons was 6.12 billion kilometres from Earth, NASA said.

Shots of these two icy objects were captured by NASA's New Horizons space probe. It has the goal of observing "at least two-dozen" more Kuiper Belt objects.

New Horizons is now in electronic hibernation. There are only four spacecraft that have ever traveled that far from home: Voyager 1 and 2, and Pioneer 10 and 11.

These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft.

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 was even farther from home than NASA's Voyager 1 when it captured the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth, according to the USA space agency.

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". During its voyage to the outer reaches of the solar system, the spacecraft usually stays in hibernation mode to conserve energy. It is now about 41 times as far from Earth as Earth is from the sun. "Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings", says NASA.

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