Published: Sat, February 10, 2018
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NASA spacecraft captures farthest images away from Earth

NASA spacecraft captures farthest images away from Earth

Not only is the image at the top of this article the farthest ever made from Earth, but is the closest we've ever seen of Kuiper Belt objects. The distance? Over 6.1 billion kilometers.

After the fly-by, the spacecraft continued into the Kuiper Belt - similar to the asteroid belt but further out from the Sun and composed of dwarf planets and frozen ice, rather than rocky bodies.

NASA says the New Horizons spacecraft is "healthy" and is now in hibernation.

New Horizons is the probe that flew by Pluto on July 14, 2015, and beamed back those wonderful pictures. But its mission isn't done. They're also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. NASA reports that the cameras on the Voyager 1 were turned off shortly after that image was made, which kept the record intact for almost 30 years. New Horizons was even farther from home than NASA's Voyager 1 when it captured the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth, according to the USA space agency.

NASA says its New Horizons spacecraft made an image using its telescopic camera to make an image 3.79 billion miles from Earth, which makes it the farthest one ever made from our planet. But every once in a while, it wakes up, and it snaps a few photos which it then beams back to Earth. The still-active probe is now over 21 billion kilometers from Earth, but NASA long ago made a decision to turn off the probe's camera to save on power. When that happens, it will break the record again.

The routine calibration frame of the "Wishing Well" galactic open star cluster, made by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on December 5, was taken when New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers, or 40.9 astronomical units) from Earth - making it, for a time, the farthest image ever made from Earth.

The image at the top of the page is of several Kuiper Belt objects including some far-out dwarf planets and Centaurs, the space agency reports. It is heading toward an even closer encounter with an icy world 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto on January 1. 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 United States to complete its reconnaissance of our solar system.

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