New Horizons probe captures images at record distance from Earth

12 February, 2018, 15:29 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • For a short time this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager frame of the

New Horizons continues to exceed expectations in its space wanderings.

For a short time, this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager frame of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, taken December 5, 2017, was the farthest image ever made by a spacecraft, breaking a 27-year record set by Voyager 1. Thanks to him, the researchers were able to learn that on Pluto there is a cryovolcano, glaciers, mountain ranges and characteristics of the subsurface ocean, and also the first to see the moons Charon, Nix, Hydra and Cerberus in detail. 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.

Now the unit is on its way to its new objective, the double asteroid 2014 MU69 to which he will arrive in January 2019. They're also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. Scientists suggest that 2014 MU69 could be part of a triple system that includes in addition to the double asteroid and even satellite. So long as the mission goes according to plan, New Horizons could hold on to its lead for a long time. On Dec. 5, the probe's cameras pointed toward the "Wishing Well' star cluster and snapped a photo".

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That image was made at a vantage point of 3.75 billion miles from Earth.

They might not look like much, sure―the above images are the closest ever taken of objects within the Kuiper Belt―but it's a landmark moment for space photography all the same. The machine watched the heavenly bodies and tried to find them traces of dust or rings. The previous record holder for the farthest picture was NASA's Voyager 1, which shot the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth on February. On January 1, 2019, the probe will fly by a small, frozen world in the Kuiper Belt called 2014 MU69, which orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto.

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. Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, will bring the spacecraft out of its electronic slumber on June 4th and begin a series of system checkouts and other activities to prepare New Horizons for the MU69 encounter.

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