CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The NASA spacecraft that gave us close-ups of Pluto has set a record for the farthest photos ever taken. The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1. They're also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects.
Such is the case with its New Horizons spacecraft, which made history by turning its telescopic camera toward a field of stars on December 5 when it snapped a photograph of the "Wishing Well" galactic star cluster 3.79 billion miles away from Earth.
The new record-breaking photos show two Kuiper Belt objects, 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85.
But New Horizons is the first to send back a picture for so far afield.
New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched, traveling at a speed of 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) per day.
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Two hours later, LORRI looked at two objects in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy objects that New Horizons has been traveling through in the wake of its Pluto encounter.
The Kuiper belt object flyby is "not almost as flashy as Pluto", Porter said, but "it's a really unique observation". 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.
The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and is now in hibernation.
New Horizons willI become the first to do a fly-by of one of the many mysterious Kuiper Belt objects when it will come in close range of "Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69" shortly after midnight on January 1, 2019.
On Earth, NASA's Deep Space Network antenna dishes catch the faint signals coming from New Horizons and reassemble the raw data into a usable form. Specifically, New Horizons is targeting 2014 MU69, a mysterious object (or pair of two objects) which Alan Stern, mission principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), has called "provocative" and a "scientific bonanza".
New Horizons is now in hibernation until June 4. In the first week of December, it passed the Pale Blue Dot's record distance.