NASA Exhibits the Most Distant Images Taken by a Spaceship
11 February, 2018, 05:30 | Author: Simon Thompson
Prior to New Horizons' star shot, the image taken farthest from Earth was one of the Blue Marble snapped by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on February 14, 1990.
In December 2017, New Horizons took these false-color images of objects in the Kuiper Belt, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft.
One of LORRI's pictures shows the "Wishing Well" star cluster, a scattering of points of light that New Horizons could use for camera calibration purposes. That image, known as the "Pale Blue Dot", was taken from 3.75 billion miles (6 billion km) away. New Horizons was even farther from home than NASA's Voyager 1 when it captured the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth, according to the USA space agency. At the time, they broke distance records. It finished its primary mission with the Pluto flyby in 2015 and is now on an extended mission to explore the Kuiper Belt, helping the United States to complete its reconnaissance of our solar system. Until now, it has been nearly completely unexplored. Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, will bring the spacecraft out of its electronic slumber on June 4 and begin a series of system checkouts and other activities to prepare New Horizons for the MU69 encounter. Two hours later, the probe broke its own record by taking a picture of the Kuiper belt.
Scientists are eager to find out what New Horizons makes of MU69.
New Horizons is an interplanetary space craft that was launched under NASA's New Frontiers Program in 2006 with the primary mission to perform a study on the Pluto system and Kuiper Belt objects. The images of KBO 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 are also the closest-ever images of KBOs. The story behind them, though, is one for history books.
"The Voyagers and Pioneers flew through the Kuiper Belt at a time when we didn't know this region existed", Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said. "New Horizons is on the hunt to understand these objects, and we invite everyone to ring in the next year with the excitement of exploring the unknown". The Jupiter flyby provided a gravity assist that increased New Horizons' speed; the flyby also enabled a general test of New Horizons' scientific capabilities, returning data about the planet's atmosphere, moons, and magnetosphere.
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