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11 February 2018, 01:12 | Ross Houston
Enlarge Image New Horizons captured this record-breaking image of the Wishing Well star cluster in December. NASA JHUAPL SwRI
Earth can be seen as a tiny dot in the middle of the orange stripe on the right side in this "Pale Blue Dot" photograph, taken by NASA'sVoyager 1 in 1990, almost 4 billion miles from Earth. Another picture taken by LORRI consists of two objects in the Kuiper belt. Although the main objective of New Horizons was to study Pluto and the Kuiper Belt of icy, rocky objects, the spacecraft first flew past the solar system's largest planet, Jupiter, in early 2007 - just a little over a year after launch. NASA describes those as "false-color images" and explains that they were taken in December 2017.
The last time they did this was 5 December, when New Horizons took a routine calibration image of a cluster of stars, breaking a record for the most distant photograph ever taken. When the image was taken, the spacecraft was at a distance of 3.75 billion miles from Earth.
While we continue to bask in the afterglow of Elon Musk's historic Falcon Heavy SpaceX launch, it's easy to forget that NASA makes history virtually every day with innovations and milestones that continue to shape the future of the aerospace industry. When that happens, it will break the record again.
That photo was taken on February 14, 1990, by NASA'sVoyager 1 at 3.75 billion miles from Earth.
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Launched in 2006, New Horizons spacecraft is created to explore worlds at the our solar system. 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. New Horizons is one of only five shuttles which has managed to reach the escape velocity required to exit the solar system.
After the fly-by, the spacecraft continued into the Kuiper Belt. 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". The spacecraft observed numerous Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) as well as dwarf planets at unique phase angles.
Most of the time, New Horizons is sleeping - hibernating, to save energy. "New Horizons is on the hunt to understand these objects, and we invite everyone to ring in the next year with the excitement of exploring the unknown".
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