CAPE CANAVERAL: The NASA spacecraft that gave us close-ups of Pluto has set a record for the farthest photos ever taken.
In December — while 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers) from Earth — the New Horizons spacecraft captured a picture of a star cluster. The photo surpassed the “Pale Blue Dot” images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA’s Voyager 1.
The images for “Pale Blue Dot” which is a part of a composite were taken 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers) away. New Horizons took several photos as it sped closer into the cosmos in December. These pictures depict two objects in the Kuiper Belt, the so-called twilight zone on the fringes of our solar system.
NASA released the images this week.
New Horizons flew past Pluto in 2015. It’s moved towards even closer encounter with another icy world, 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019. The targeted object is known as 2014 MU69; the spacecraft will pass within 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers).
Lead scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado said, “New Horizons just couldn’t be better … we’re bearing down on our flyby target.”
New Horizons is presently in electronic hibernation. Flight controllers at a Johns Hopkins University lab in Laurel, Maryland, will awaken the spacecraft in June and start getting it ready for the flyby.
The spacecraft was inaugurated in 2006.
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