Published: Sun, February 11, 2018
Tech | By Tabitha Holland

3.8 billion miles! New Horizons spacecraft sends pictures from farthest vantage point

3.8 billion miles! New Horizons spacecraft sends pictures from farthest vantage point

Voyager-1 held up its record-breaking record for almost 27 years, until December 5, 2017, when New Horizons took a photo at 6,099,413,760 km from Earth. On 5 December, 2017, the spacecraft, which covers over one million kilometres of space per day, was 6.12 billion kilometres from Earth, when it captured an image of the "Wishing Well" open star cluster - making it the "farthest image ever made from Earth". With its latest wake-up, it broke the record for the farthest image humanity has ever taken away from Earth. That picture was part of a composite of 60 images looking back at the solar system, on February 14, 1990, when Voyager was 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers, or about 40.5 astronomical units [AU]) from Earth. Another famous space probe, Voyager 1, was the previous record holder for over 27 years. Since then, New Horizons has been speeding beyond our solar system and toward the distant Kuiper Belt, where it has centered on three objects: a star group called the Wishing Well and two objects in the Kuiper Belt, which you see above.

New Horizons is the fifth spacecraft to go beyond the outer planets of our solar systems, so is in a prime position to break a few records. Or restarted. The probe is periodically in communication with the mission team as it closes in on its next target, a Kuiper Belt object (or perhaps even two paired objects) known as 2014 MU69.

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", says NASA. 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.

Launched in 2006, New Horizons spacecraft is created to explore worlds at the our solar system.

The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and is now in hibernation. "And now, we've been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history". It's not just taking awesome photos on its path, but also carrying measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along the way, enabling astronomers to better understand the outskirts of our solar system. To get there, New Horizons is trucking: It travels more than 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) a day. The transmission rate for New Horizons is only about 2 kilobits per second.

New Horizons is still on an active mission to visit the Kuiper Belt.

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