NASA probe "New Horizons" snaps farthest-ever photo from Earth

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

For a short time this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager frame of the"Wishing Well star cluster taken Dec. 5 was the farthest image ever made by a spacecraft breaking a record set by Voyager 1. About two hours later New Horizons

New Horizons was about 3.79 billion miles (~6.12B km) from Earth when the photos were shot.

For a couple of hours, this New Horizons image of the so-called Wishing Well star cluster, snapped on December 5, 2017, was the farthest image ever captured by a spacecraft. This image is, for now, one of the farthest pictures from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, will bring the spacecraft out of its electronic slumber on June 4, 2018, and begin a series of system checkouts and other activities to prepare New Horizons for the close encounter with 2014 MU69.

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On December 5, New Horizons trained its camera on the "Wishing Well" cluster of stars, followed by two objects in the Kuiper Belt - the massive band of rocks and dwarf planets on the outer fringes of the solar system, NPR reports. NASA says Voyager 1's cameras were turned off after that, so its photography record has been unchallenged for more than 27 years.

NASA released the images this week.

NASA program director Alan Stern said: "New Horizons has always been a first-time mission, the first to explore Pluto, the first to explore the Camping Zone and the fastest spacecraft ever launched". A composite of 60 images, that image became known as the "Pale Blue Dot," made more famous by Carl Sagan's description of Earth as "a mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam".

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However, that might not be the last we hear from New Horizons, as its power source could continue to provide life into 2026 and beyond.

The probe then turned its attention to the distant Kuiper Belt. Two Pioneer probes-Pioneer 10 and 11-have also traveled farther away than New Horizons, but NASA lost contact with them years ago.

Getting the images to Earth is no easy task. To send its recent images of the KBOs, Stern tells Pappas, it took the craft four hours just to transmit the data and another six hours for that information to reach Earth, where NASA's Deep Space Network is able to gather the faint signal.

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New Horizons has observed several objects in the Kuiper Belt, a distant region of icy debris that extends far beyond the orbit of Neptune. These images once again broke the record for being the most distant images taken from Earth (again), but also set a new record for the closest-ever images ever taken of KBOs.

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