NASA captured the most distant photograph from the Earth

Herbert Rhodes
February 14, 2018

New Horizons first broke Voyager's photo-distance record on December 5, 2017, with an image of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, which it shot as part of a routine calibration process when it was 3.79 billion miles from Earth.

"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, the mission's principal investigator, said in the NASA statement.

"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", says principal investigator Alan Stern, a planetary scientist the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, in the release.

For a couple of hours, this New Horizons image of the so-called Wishing Well star cluster, snapped on December 5, 2017, was the farthest image ever captured by a spacecraft.

New Horizons is now on its way to a KBO named 2014 MU69, with which it's expected to make a close encounter on Jan 1, 2019.

Voyager 1's cameras were turned off shortly after that portrait, leaving its distance record unchallenged for more than 27 years.

Several hours after that first image, New Horizons broke its own record with the two images at the top of this story. 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.

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The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1. The spacecraft travels more than 700,000 miles of space every day.

The images, as seen above (Kuiper Belt objects) and below (Wishing Well cluster), are somewhat grainy and not the most detailed we've seen from NASA, but that doesn't make the feat any less remarkable.

In July of 2015, the New Horizons mission made history by being the first spacecraft to rendezvous with Pluto.

New Horizons is now in electronic hibernation.

That image was made at a vantage point of 3.75 billion miles from Earth.

The targeted object is known as 2014 MU69; the spacecraft will pass within 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometres). NASA scientists are also using the New Horizons craft to analyze plasma, dust, and gas in the region. It will be the farthest planetary encounter in history.

NASA also plans for the spacecraft to observe at least two-dozen other KBOs, dwarf planets, and Centaurs - the former KBOS in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of giant planets. These efforts could reveal much about the formation and evolution of the Solar System, and are setting records that are not likely to be broken for many more decades!

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