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NASA probe "New Horizons" snaps farthest-ever photo from Earth

12 February 2018

NASA said the image, captured by New Horizons's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), was "for a time, the farthest image ever made from Earth".

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured these images at a distance of 3.79 billion miles from Earth - the farthest from our planet an image has ever been made. But they're arguably among the most fantastic photographic images ever.

"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts", the mission's principle investigator Alan Stern said, "First to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched".

Two hours later, New Horizons has already beaten his own record by making color photographs of two Kuiper Belt objects (2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85). That was followed up with the shots of the Kuiper Belt two hours later. The new images are the closest images of Kuiper Belt objects obtained to date.

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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.

Voyager 1 captured these images at a distance of 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion km) from Earth. That shot - which was, in fact, part of a composite of 60 images - came to be known as the "Pale Blue Dot", famously for depicting Earth as "a mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam".

Since then, no spacecraft has been in a position to break Voyager 1's record - until now. (Pluto is one of these dwarf planets.) 2014 MU69 is almost a billion miles beyond Pluto, which itself is 4.67 billion miles (7.5 billion km) beyond Earth.

It's not the first time New Horizons has managed an unprecedented feat.

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"Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings", the space agency says. The spacecraft is slated to swing by another Kuiper Belt object (2014 MU69) on January 1st, 2019 and record more imagery in the process.

Only the fifth spacecraft to travel beyond the solar system's gas giant planets, after Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, New Horizons is now continuously measuring plasma, dust, and neutral gas in its environment.

"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts-first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", said Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. Its controllers stationed at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland will once again man the space probe on June 4 to prepare the spacecraft for its new destination.

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NASA probe