Science

NASA space probe takes 'furthest ever' photo from Earth

NASA space probe takes 'furthest ever' photo from Earth

That picture was part of a composite of 60 images looking back at the solar system, on February 14th 1990, when Voyager was 6.06 billion kilometres from Earth.

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, said NASA.

As the interplanetary New Horizons probe woke up from its hibernating slumber, it turned its telescopic camera toward a field of stars and took a picture - making history.

But now, New Horizons mission is yet to finish as it travels at a speed of 1.1m km a day to reach its final objective: the observation of objects in the Kuiper-Edgeworth Belt which got underway past year.

New Horizons is not as far from Earth as Voyager 1, but this spacecraft is also on track to leave the solar system. Now, the shuttle is currently on its way to study one or more other Kuiper belt objects. However, they are now finally available and Nasa has published the most striking images that show the "spectacular new perspectives" of the dwarf planet. "The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra - which exhibits deep and wide pits - before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere".




It has the goal of observing "at least two-dozen" more Kuiper Belt objects. According to the principal investigator of the mission, Alan Stern, New Horizons has been a first-run operation: first exploring Pluto is also the first to track the Kuiper Belt, and-in addition-the fastest spacecraft ever launched.

Snapped on 5 December, the image was taken by the satellite's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and surpasses the famous 'Pale Blue Dot' image of Earth taken by Voyager 1 when it was at a point 6.06bn km from Earth. "The spacecraft also is making almost continuous measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along its path".

The Kuiper Belt is similar to the asteroid belt but is far larger: 20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive.

New Horizons, in contrast, is just getting started. If a craft were launched today it would take a decade to travel as far as New Horizons has, and there are no immediate plans to follow in its path. In the first week of December, it passed the Pale Blue Dot's record distance.


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