New Horizons' Recently Captured Image Breaks Voyager 1's 27-Year Record

Casey Dawson
February 15, 2018

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

The images for "Pale Blue Dot" - part of a composite - were taken 3.75 billion miles away. On December 5th of a year ago, it woke up and took a routine image of a star cluster called the Wishing Well to calibrate its camera, the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).

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

According to NASA, the remarkable false-color images sent back by New Horizons are also the closest-ever images captured of objects in the Kuiper Belt. 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 U.S. to complete its reconnaissance of our solar system. NASA says Voyager 1's cameras were turned off after that, so its photography record has been unchallenged for more than 27 years.

And, NASA says they're the closest images yet of objects in this region.

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That record won't be broken by another probe anytime soon, since New Horizons is one of just a few spacecraft that have ever made the harrowing journey to the edges of our solar system. Voyager 1's achievement lasted as long as it did because the mission crew shut off the camera shortly after capturing the Pale Blue Dot image.

Artist's impression of New Horizons encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt.

This image, taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on December 5, 2017, shows the Kuiper Belt object 2012 HZ84. Considering that was an image of our own planet taken from afar, it figures that it'd probably remain the more popular and iconic of the two―humanity can be self-centered, after all, and the Kuiper Belt is remote. In the process, it sent back of the distant world, which for decades had appeared as little more than a smudge to even the most advanced telescopes on Earth.

To date, New Horizons is the fifth spacecraft to venture beyond the outer planets. So long as the mission goes according to plan, New Horizons could hold on to its lead for a long time. To get there, New Horizons is trucking: It travels more than 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) a day.

After making the first ever fly-by of Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft is getting ready for an encore.

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