NASA space probe takes 'furthest ever' photo from Earth

Delia Walker
February 11, 2018

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft recently made history when it captured the images of Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) using its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).

NASA said in a statement that New Horizons snapped a picture of a group of stars known as the "Wishing Well" when the spacecraft was about 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers) from Earth. The Voyager was 3.75 billion miles from Earth when that composite of 60 images looking back at the solar system was taken, and it's cameras were shut off shortly after. NASA says Voyager 1's cameras were turned off after that, so its photography record has been unchallenged for more than 27 years.

However, just two hours later, New Horizons LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) broke its own record and captured images of Kuiper Belt objects (KBO) from ever farther away. Voyager took them by turning its lens back towards Earth as the spacecraft sailed beyond Neptune on February 14, 1990.

During its mission, the spacecraft helped researchers answer basic questions about the surface properties, geology and interior makeup of these bodies.

"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched". On October 25, 2016, at 21:48 UTC, the last of the recorded data from the Pluto flyby was received from New Horizons.[14] Having completed its flyby of Pluto, [15] New Horizons has maneuvered for a flyby of Kuiper belt object (486958) 2014 MU69, expected to take place on January 1, 2019, when it will be 43.4 AU from the Sun. "The spacecraft also is making almost continuous measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along its path". During its voyage to the outer reaches of the solar system, the spacecraft usually stays in hibernation mode to conserve energy.

New Horizons is sleeping now, resting up for its next big adventure. There are only four spacecraft that have ever traveled that far from home: Voyager 1 and 2, and Pioneer 10 and 11.

New Horizons is reportedly healthy and everything is functioning as planned. And with the probe continuing to hurtle through space at a speed of 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) per day, it will continue to collect more and more distant views of the universe.

"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 incredible pictures.

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