New Horizons probe captures images at record distance from Earth

For a short time this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager frame of the

That spacecraft is New Horizons, a NASA starship that zipped past Pluto in 2015 and is scheduled to fly by an object in the icy Kuiper Belt at the outer reaches of the solar system in January 2019. These images, which have since been released to the public, have set the new record for the most distant images ever taken.

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.

According to NASA, the remarkable false-color images sent back by New Horizons are also the closest-ever images captured of objects in the Kuiper Belt. Besides analyzing MU69, New Horizons will also make observations of a dozen other objects including dwarf planets and "Centaurs", or objects with unstable orbits that float around in the Kuiper Belt. On December 5th of previous year, it woke up and took a routine image of a star cluster called the Wishing Well to calibrate its camera, the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).

Hours after its first record-breaking image on Dec 5, it captured another.

On Earth, NASA's Deep Space Network antenna dishes catch the faint signals coming from New Horizons and reassemble the raw data into a usable form. Just 2 hours before, the spacecraft had officially claimed the title of spaciest photographer by capturing a camera-calibration shot of a far-off star cluster known as the Wishing Well.

'New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched, ' said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

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New Horizons continues to exceed expectations in its space wanderings. From here on out, every image it sends back will be the most distant image ever sent back.

The probe then turned its attention to the distant Kuiper Belt. The date of the rendezvous is on New Year's Day, according to Cheng.

The kicker? That record is likely to be broken again within a matter of months.

According to the press release, New Horizons is now back in hibernation mode and will reawaken on June 4 to begin preparations for a January 1, 2019 rendezvous with 2014 MU69, which is almost a billion miles beyond Pluto.

New Horizons is now in electronic hibernation.

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