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3.8 billion miles! New Horizons spacecraft sends pictures from farthest vantage point

11 February 2018
3.8 billion miles! New Horizons spacecraft sends pictures from farthest vantage point

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.

For a short time, this LORRI frame of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, taken December 5, 2017, was the farthest image ever made by a spacecraft, breaking a 27-year record set by Voyager 1.

"Our flyby of MU69 on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day 2019 will be an exciting sequel to the historic exploration New Horizons performed at Pluto in 2015", added Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.

In taking these images, New Horizon broke a record that had stood for almost three decades. For comparison, Voyager 1 was 3.75 billion miles from Earth when it captured the "Pale Blue Dot" image. New Horizons is one of only five shuttles which has managed to reach the escape velocity required to exit the solar system. Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, pointed out that New Horizons' vantage point from about 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) from MU69 will allow it spot details about the size of a basketball court.

New Horizons is sleeping now, resting up for its next big adventure.

On January 19, 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard on an Atlas V rocket.

New Horizons is best known for taking stunning photos of Pluto back in 2015. This belt is home to three officially recognized dwarf planets- Pluto, Haumea and Makemake. Although the main objective of New Horizons was to study Pluto and the Kuiper Belt of icy, rocky objects, the spacecraft first flew past the solar system's largest planet, Jupiter, in early 2007 - just a little over a year after launch. 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.

The New Horizons probe took an image which is the furthest ever created from Earth, beating a record set by NASA's Voyager probe. To get there, New Horizons is trucking: It travels more than 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) a day. It plans to observe around two dozen objects in the belt, including dwarf planets and "Centaurs"-objects with unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the solar system's giant planets". But that will not be true when New Horizons wakes up in August.

New Horizons is reportedly healthy and everything is functioning as planned. When that happens, it will break the record again.