NASA spacecraft captures farthest images away from Earth

NASA space

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

Two and a half years after becoming the first probe to study Pluto up close, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is gaining more fame for possessing the solar system's farthest-out camera in operation.

The frame of the Wishing Well galactic star cluster, taken by the probe's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was taken when New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles from Earth. "The telescopic camera actually beat its own record that it had set two hours before on the same day with an image of the "Wishing Well" cluster", NASA reports. It's now hibernating until it readies for launch again on June 4, but the spacecraft hopes to observe at least two-dozen other Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), dwarf planets and "Centaurs", or KBOs in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the giant planets, upon its return later this year.

For now, the Hubble telescope, which orbits Earth, can image most Kuiper belt objects in greater detail than New Horizon's eight-inch telescope, Porter said.

With these pictures, New Horizons breaks a record of 27 years established by the NASA Voyager 1 probe when it captured the famous Earth photograph, Pale Blue Dot, at 6,0 60 million kilometers.


The previous record - not set on December 9, 2017 - came from the beloved Voyager 1 back in February 1990 with its "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth from 3.75 billion miles from home. That image, known as the "Pale Blue Dot", was taken from 3.75 billion miles (6 billion km) away.

The probe is powered by a Star Trek-style ion drive and is journeying into the icy Kuiper Belt, one of the last truly unknown parts of our solar system. In the meantime, we'll always have 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85. New Horizons began its Kuiper Belt mission past year. This belt is home to three officially recognized dwarf planets- Pluto, Haumea and Makemake. At one billion miles beyond Pluto, that will be the farthest planetary encounter in history, according to NASA.

"And now, we've been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history", Stern added.

During its mission, the spacecraft helped researchers answer basic questions about the surface properties, geology and interior makeup of these bodies.

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