Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

NASA spacecraft captures farthest images away from Earth

These images of Kuiper Belt objects taken by NASA's New Horizons were the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft These images of Kuiper Belt objects taken by NASA's New Horizons were the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft
Grady Vargas | 10 February, 2018, 09:46

About two hours later, New Horizons later broke the record again with images of Kuiper Belt objects 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85. Its four predecessors did not send back images because their cameras were shut down before they got that far away. In February 1990, Voyager 1 was exiting our solar system when it snapped the iconic "Pale Blue Dot" photo - a picture of Earth from over 6.06 billion kilometers away.

The NASA spacecraft that gave us close-ups of Pluto has set a record for the farthest photos ever taken.

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

On December 9, it carried out the most-distant course-correction manoeuvre ever, as the mission team guided the spacecraft towards a close encounter with a Kuiper Belt objects (KBO) named 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.

The U.S. space agency says the spacecraft is now healthy and in hibernation, as the team behind it at Johns Hopkins plan to wake it up on June 4 of this year to prepare for its impending encounter with MU69.

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"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

When you're traveling through 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) of space each day, nothing stands still. During its voyage to the outer reaches of the solar system, the spacecraft usually stays in hibernation mode to conserve energy. "The spacecraft also is making almost continuous measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along its path".

A tiny NASA space probe which "slept" for nine years and has travelled 3.79 billion years to the edge of our solar system has made history this week.

The Kuiper Belt is similar to the asteroid belt but is far larger: 20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. "Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings", says NASA.

New Horizons is reportedly healthy and everything is functioning as planned. The photos released Thursday break the record of the "Pale Blue Dot" photo.

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