Sunday, 27 May, 2018

NASA breaks record for pictures taken farthest from Earth

This December 2017 false-color image made available by NASA in February 2018 shows KBO 2012 HZ84. This image is for now one of the farthest NASA probe “New Horizons” snaps farthest-ever photo from Earth
Delores Daniels | 14 February, 2018, 19:13

New Horizons first broke Voyager's photo-distance record on December 5, 2017, with an image of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, which it shot as part of a routine calibration process when it was 3.79 billion miles from Earth.

The image, which to the naked eye just looks like an eery green glow in between some cloud looking things, is actually something much cooler. Besides analyzing MU69, New Horizons will also make observations of a dozen other objects including dwarf planets and "Centaurs", or objects with unstable orbits that float around in the Kuiper Belt.

"New Horizons just couldn't be better... we're bearing down on our flyby target", said lead scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. So, after exploring Pluto in 2015, New Horizons, started on its secondary mission to explore 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO), which it should reach in 2019.

NASA says Voyager 1's cameras were turned off after that, so its photography record has been unchallenged for more than 27 years.

Several hours after that first image, New Horizons broke its own record with the two images at the top of this story.

These pictures show two objects in the Kuiper Belt, the so-called twilight zone on the fringes of our solar system.

Until recently, the image captured farthest from Earth was the "pale blue dot" photo that the Voyager 1 spacecraft snapped before shutting off its cameras in 1990.

New Horizons is just the fifth spacecraft that goes through the heights of our solar system and opens itself into the real vast universe.

For now, though, New Horizons is now enjoying some well-deserved hibernation as it hurtles away from us at a rate of roughly 700,000 miles a day.

The images, as seen above (Kuiper Belt objects) and below (Wishing Well cluster), are somewhat grainy and not the most detailed we've seen from NASA, but that doesn't make the feat any less remarkable. From here on out, every image it sends back will be the most distant image ever sent back.

That image was made at a vantage point of 3.75 billion miles from Earth. The Kuiper Belt is a disc-shaped expanse past the orbit of Neptune, about 2.7 billion to 9.3 billion miles (4.4 billion to 14.9 billion km) from the sun, that contains thousands of icy objects, comets and dwarf planets. This leaves the exploration up to New Horizons. This event, which will happen on January 1st, 2019, will be the farthest planetary encounter in history.

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