NASA'S New Horizons probe snaps farthest image from Earth

NASA Probe Captures Farthest Images Taken Away From Earth

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has returned some magnificent images of the Solar System's outer reaches around Pluto, its primary target.

The frame of the Wishing Well galactic star cluster, taken by the probe's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was taken when New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles from Earth. In February 1990, Voyager 1 was exiting our solar system when it snapped the iconic "Pale Blue Dot" photo - a picture of Earth from over 6.06 billion kilometers away.

The Pale Blue Dot images were taken at a distance of 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers), and show Earth itself as a mere speck amid space.

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Those snapshots of the December 2012 KBO 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 are so far the furthest ever captured by a spacecraft, and the closest to any body of Kuiper, the agency stressed in a statement. New Horizons' encounter with Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, which orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto, will offer the first close-up look at such a pristine building block of the solar system - and will be performed in a region of deep space that was practically unknown just a generation ago.

But New Horizons is the first to send back a picture for so far afield.

The New Horizons spacecraft is said to be in good condition and is now hibernating, with mission control planning to awaken it again on June 4 in preparation for a flyby of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 in mid-2019.

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While some of the images we snap of the cosmos are stunning enough to look like artwork, sometimes the least interesting images are just as impressive for the effort it took to take it. Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings. 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.

The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and is now in hibernation. As of this writing, it's the farthest image ever made from Earth.

New Horizons is reportedly healthy and everything is functioning as planned. The red line marks the path of the New Horizons spacecraft. The transmission rate for New Horizons is only about 2 kilobits per second. For now, New Horizons won't be sending home any snapshots.

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Most of the post-Jupiter voyage was spent in hibernation mode to preserve on-board systems, except for brief annual checkouts.[9] On December 6, 2014, New Horizons was brought back online for the Pluto encounter, and instrument check-out began.[10] On January 15, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft began its approach phase to Pluto.

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