Published: Sun, February 11, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

NASA breaks record for pictures taken farthest from Earth

NASA breaks record for pictures taken farthest from Earth

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft just took the farthest-ever images from Earth, breaking an earlier record set by Voyager 1's "Pale Blue Dot" image taken nearly exactly 28 years ago.

Such is the case with its New Horizons spacecraft, which made history by turning its telescopic camera toward a field of stars on December 5 when it snapped a photograph of the "Wishing Well" galactic star cluster 3.79 billion miles away from Earth.

Prior to New Horizons' star shot, the image taken farthest from Earth was one of the Blue Marble snapped by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on February 14, 1990.

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New Horizons is an interplanetary space craft that was launched under NASA's New Frontiers Program in 2006 with the primary mission to perform a study on the Pluto system and Kuiper Belt objects. According to the principal investigator of the mission, Alan Stern, New Horizons has been a first-run operation: first exploring Pluto is also the first to track the Kuiper Belt, and-in addition-the fastest spacecraft ever launched. It was a fleeting record, because 2 hours later, the two KBOs were imaged.

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.

New Horizons was even farther from home than NASA's Voyager 1 when it captured the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth.

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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.

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.

Back in 2017, NASA published an image taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, also called LORRI. New Horizons is just the fifth spacecraft to speed beyond the outer planets, so many of its activities set distance records, NASA said. Flight controllers at a Johns Hopkins University lab in Laurel, Maryland, will awaken the spacecraft in June and start getting it ready for the flyby. 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.

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