NASA Probe Captures Farthest Images Taken Away From Earth

NASA Probe Captures Farthest Images Taken Away From Earth

The false-colour images were taken at the furthest ever point from Earth captured by a spacecraft - they're also the closest ever images of objects in the Kupier Belt. There are only four spacecraft that have ever traveled that far from home: Voyager 1 and 2, and Pioneer 10 and 11.

NASA's New Horizon spacecraft recently taken record-breaking images in the Kuiper Belt. On 5 December, 2017, the spacecraft, which covers over one million kilometres of space per day, was 6.12 billion kilometres from Earth, when it captured an image of the "Wishing Well" open star cluster - making it the "farthest image ever made from Earth".

Compare that achievement to Voyager 1, which was 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers) from Earth when it took the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of our home world on February 14, 1990. That picture, the brainchild of the late physicist Carl Sagan, looked back at Earth from a distance of 3.75 billion miles. Kuiper Belt is a disc-shaped region beyond Neptune that extends from about 30 to 55 astronomical units from the Sun. Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings. "The spacecraft also is making almost continuous measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along its path".

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.

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On January 19, 2006, New Horizons was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station by an Atlas V rocket directly into an Earth-and-solar escape trajectory with a speed of about 16.26 kilometers per second (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph).

The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and is now in hibernation. 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. New Horizons began its Kuiper Belt mission past year.

"That tells us this object is going to have a lot of surprises in store for New Horizons", said Marc Buie, the New Horizons science team member from SwRI who led the observation campaign.

New Horizons is the probe that flew by Pluto on July 14, 2015, and beamed back those wonderful pictures.

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