Tuesday, 20 February, 2018

New Horizons probe captures images at record distance from Earth

NASA share farthest pic of Pluto from Earth 1222018 These Record Breaking Pics Were Snapped Further Out in Space Than Any Picture Ever Taken
Frank Williams | 12 February, 2018, 16:23

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

NASA has released a photograph taken 6.1 billion kilometres away from Earth.

In December - while 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometres) from Earth - the New Horizons spacecraft snapped a picture of a star cluster.

This December 2017 false-color image made available by NASA in February 2018 shows KBO (Kuiper Belt object) 2012 HZ84.

In so doing, they also broke a record that had stood untouched since 1990, when the Voyager 1 spacecraft sent back a final glimpse of Earth before its cameras went dark.

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New Horizons recorded a picture of a star cluster taken from almost 4 billion miles away, breaking the previous record. 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".

But the New Horizons photos are a worthwhile reminder that as technology improves, and as NASA probes and crafts work their way deeper and deeper into space, there's going to be a wealth of interesting, engrossing, and attractive photos as a result.

Mission scientists plan to use images of these objects, captured by LORRI, to determine their shapes, sizes, and surface properties. The spacecraft is slated to swing by another Kuiper Belt object (2014 MU69) on January 1st, 2019 and record more imagery in the process. The probe is measuring levels of plasma, dust, and gases as it travels, and will eventually take a look at more than 20 other KBOs.

New Horizons continues to exceed expectations in its space wanderings. This image is, for now, one of the farthest pictures from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazine's guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. 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.

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