NASA's New Horizons satellite snaps farthest image ever made from Earth

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The hazy pictures above may not look like much, but they're the farthest images a manmade spacecraft has ever made from Earth.

The frame of the Wishing Well galactic star cluster, taken by the probe's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was taken when New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles from Earth. With its latest wake-up, it broke the record for the farthest image humanity has ever taken away from Earth.

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. NASA says Voyager 1's cameras were turned off after that, so its photography record has been unchallenged for more than 27 years.

Those snapshots of the December 2012 KBO 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 are so far the furthest ever captured by a spacecraft, and the closest to any body of Kuiper, the agency stressed in a statement. It extends in a disc around our sun, beyond the orbit of Neptune.

"Our flyby of MU69 on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day 2019 will be an exciting sequel to the historic exploration New Horizons performed at Pluto in 2015", added Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.

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The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and is now in hibernation. During its voyage to the outer reaches of the solar system, the spacecraft usually stays in hibernation mode to conserve energy. As of this writing, it's the farthest image ever made from Earth.

New Horizons broke its own record by taking the image of the two KBOs shown above. "The spacecraft also is making almost continuous measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along its path". In fact, the all we know about it has come from the Hubble Space Telescope (used to discover the object in 2014) and a comprehensive observation campaign last summer, in which the New Horizons team gathered data on MU69 as it passed in front of three stars. The Jupiter flyby provided a gravity assist that increased New Horizons' speed; the flyby also enabled a general test of New Horizons' scientific capabilities, returning data about the planet's atmosphere, moons, and magnetosphere.

On July 14, 2015, at 11:49 UTC, it flew 12,500 km (7,800 mi) above the surface of Pluto, making it the first spacecraft to explore the dwarf planet.

New Horizons is still on an active mission to visit the Kuiper Belt.

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