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Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

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

NASA probe

At present, the New Horizons probe is at a distance of 6.12 billion km (3.79 billion mi) from Earth. That image has held the record for the farthest ever taken away from Earth-until now.

When New Horizon's snapped a photo with its telescopic camera for a routine calibration frame of the Wishing Well star cluster, it was farther into space than even NASA's Voyager 1 had been when it captured its famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth, the space agency says. As Ben Guarino reports for The Washington Post, the New Horizons spacecraft has set a new record, taking an image of objects in the Kuiper Belt while 3.79 billion miles from home.

New Horizons is headed toward a KBO dubbed 2014 MU69, one of more than 20 far-off chunks of rock and ice NASA hopes to observe during the spacecraft's mission. Two hours later, it broke the record again with two images of KBOs that are also the closest-up image ever taken of any such object.

For the past 27 years, Voyager 1 has been the record holder for the farthest captured image in history.

NASA has a whole lot of fancy image-gathering hardware on Earth and in space, and we've seen countless of stunning snapshots taken from here on Earth as well as nearby planets like Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. 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".

"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", says principal investigator Alan Stern, a planetary scientist the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, in the release. There, NASA says it plans for New Horizons to make flyby investigations of at least two dozen objects, such as "dwarf planets and 'Centaurs, ' former [Kuiper Belt objects] in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the giant planets".

But New Horizons is the first to send back a picture for so far afield.

The piano-sized probe then turned to the Kuiper Belt.

Since that time, New Horizons has carried on to the Kuiper Belt for the sake of conducting more historic encounters. To get there, New Horizons is trucking: It travels more than 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) a day.

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 handsome photos as a result.

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