Earlier this month, NASA released the farthest photos ever taken from space.
New Horizons, a spacecraft launched in 2006, recently captured an image of a star cluster. The photo was taken while the spacecraft was 3.79 billion miles away from Earth. Previously, a spacecraft called Voyager 1 held the record when it took the famous picture named the “Pale Blue Dot,” a photo of Earth from 3.75 billion miles away. It was one of the 60 photos taken by the Voyager in 1990.
In December of 2017, New Horizons took pictures of two objects in a twilight zone near the edge of the solar system. This area is also known as the Kuiper Belt. Now, the spacecraft continues to explore of the Kuiper Belt, examining dwarf planets, unstable orbits, and other objects.
In addition to taking images, New Horizons is almost constantly measuring atmospheric conditions in space. Using this data, mission scientists can analyze characteristics of objects in the solar system.
On January 1, 2019, scientists expect New Horizons to come closer to another Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69, which is located one billion miles past Pluto.
Alan Stern, lead scientists at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said of all this activity, “New Horizons just couldn’t be better…we’re bearing down on our flyby target.”
For now, the spacecraft is hibernating. Flight controllers at John Hopkins University Lab will activate in June to prepare for its exciting flyby.
[Sources: abcnews.go.com; nasa.gov]