NASA Probe Captures Farthest Images Taken Away From Earth


This was the case with NASA's New Horizons spacecraft which has just sent back what is now the farthest image ever taken from Earth at a distance of 6.12bn km.

The previous record - not set on December 9, 2017 - came from the beloved Voyager 1 back in February 1990 with its "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth from 3.75 billion miles from home. The probe also photographed Pluto's "chaotically jumbled mountains" some of which are around 11,000 feet high.

Back then, iconic astronomer Carl Sagan had to convince NASA to turn the spacecraft's cameras around to snap the iconic image of our own planet before it ended its mission.

"The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with the blocky mountain ranges located within the plains seen on the right". The machine that took these photos was farther from Earth than any other functioning camera in existence.

With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust.

"And now, we've been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history", Stern said.

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

New Horizons, in contrast, is just getting started.

In 1994, United States astronomer Carl Sagan reflected on the significance of the photograph to an audience at Cornell University, famously coining its name as the Pale Blue Dot, and giving one of the most widely published speeches of all time. Next to nothing is known about the micro-surfaces of objects like these, Porter said.

The Kuiper belt is a vast expanse of rocks, ice clumps, comets and dwarf planets beyond Neptune. But that will not be true when New Horizons wakes up in August.

The probe is powered by a Star Trek-style ion drive and is journeying into the icy Kuiper Belt, one of the last truly unknown parts of our solar system.

New Horizons was even farther from home than NASA's Voyager 1 when it captured the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth. The spacecraft's camera will continue to set image records as it flies by a Kuiper belt object called 2014 MU69 in January 2019.

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