3.8 billion miles! New Horizons spacecraft sends pictures from farthest vantage point

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For a short time, this LORRI 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.

For a couple of hours, this New Horizons image of the so-called Wishing Well star cluster, snapped on December 5, 2017, was the farthest image ever captured by a spacecraft.

New Horizon's mission to Pluto may be over, but the NASA satellite has just sent back the 21st century's "Pale Blue Dot".

The Pale Blue Dot images were taken at a distance of 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers), and show Earth itself as a mere speck amid space. On Dec. 9 it carried out the most-distant course-correction maneuver ever, as the mission team guided the spacecraft toward a close encounter with a KBO named 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019. "That New Year's flight past MU69 will be the farthest planetary encounter in history, happening one billion miles beyond the Pluto system-which New Horizons famously explored in July 2015". Both are floating in the Kuiper Belt, an area on the edge of our solar system that NASA's spacecraft is now exploring. The spacecraft observed numerous Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) as well as dwarf planets at unique phase angles. 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". It's not just taking awesome photos on its path, but also carrying measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along the way, enabling astronomers to better understand the outskirts of our solar system.

NASA published a pair of images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft, and they're not much to look at.

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

Talking about the new milestone images is New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, who said, "New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched". New Horizons is one of only five shuttles which has managed to reach the escape velocity required to exit the solar system.

The spacecraft became the first to fly over Pluto in 2015, and the first to explore the Kuiper Belt.

New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched, traveling at a speed of 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) per day. This belt is home to three officially recognized dwarf planets- Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.