NASA spacecraft captures farthest images away from Earth


The New Horizons probe took an image which is the furthest ever created from Earth, beating a record set by NASA's Voyager probe.

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

These December 2017 false-colour images of Kupier-Edgeworth Belt objects 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. It'll be the first up-close look of a Kuiper Belt object. About two hours later, New Horizons later broke the record again.

As the interplanetary New Horizons probe woke up from its hibernating slumber, it turned its telescopic camera toward a field of stars and took a picture - making history.

For a short time, this New Horizons of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, taken December 5, 2017, was the farthest image ever made by a spacecraft, according to NASA.

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"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts-first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. It was on February 14, 1990, that the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back at our solar system and snapped the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image.

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. Now, it's zipping along at more than 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) each day - moving farther and farther out into our solar system. 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 USA to complete its reconnaissance of our solar system.

So how does New Horizons send back images, even blurry ones, through all that space? Data is stored in a solid-state recorder (the only moving parts in these flash memory devices are the electrons) on New Horizons and is then transmitted via radio waves. The red line marks the path of the New Horizons spacecraft.

New Horizons is reportedly healthy and everything is functioning as planned. According to NASA, the spacecraft is in hibernation mode until June 4, when mission controllers will bring it back online to start preparing it for its visit with MU69.