NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Captures Record-Breaking Images

For a short time this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager frame of the

At a distance of 3.79 billion miles from Earth, New Horizons recorded a picture of a star cluster this past December.

That image was made at a vantage point of 3.75 billion miles from Earth. This image is, for now, one of the farthest pictures from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. NASA says mission controllers will "bring the spacecraft out of its electronic slumber" this coming summer in anticipation of its next major close encounter, with an object known as 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.

False-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85, taken by LORRI, are the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft.

Image of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, taken December 5, 2017, which temporarily broke the 27-year record set by Voyager 1.

NASA released the images this week.

The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken by Voyager 1 back in 1990.

"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. "It is possible for the cameras to be turned on, but it is not a priority for Voyager's Interstellar Mission", according to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's website.

The New Horizons broke a 28-year-old record held by the Voyager 1.

The probe then turned its attention to the distant Kuiper Belt.

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.

But the New Horizons photos are a worthwhile reminder that as technology improves, and as NASA probes and crafts work their way deeper and deeper into space, there's going to be a wealth of interesting, engrossing, and lovely photos as a result.

Getting the images to Earth is no easy task.

New Horizons has observed several objects in the Kuiper Belt, a distant region of icy debris that extends far beyond the orbit of Neptune.

And, just hours later, it beat its own record.

According to the press release, New Horizons is now back in hibernation mode and will reawaken on June 4 to begin preparations for a January 1, 2019 rendezvous with 2014 MU69, which is almost a billion miles beyond Pluto. As Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience reports, after snapping an image and storing it on its hard drive, New Horizons sends its data back on an antenna that transmits at only 12 watts, moving data at a snail's pace-only two kilobits per second.

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