At first glance the images are unremarkable. Now, it's reportedly snapped the farthest photo from Earth that's ever been taken. A composite of 60 images, that image became known as the "Pale Blue Dot", made more famous by Carl Sagan's description of Earth as "a mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam".
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft broke yet another record by capturing the most distant images from Earth, photographing an open star cluster along with several dwarf planets, Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) and centaurs with its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).
December 5, 2017, two weeks before entering "hibernation", the device with the camera LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) received the navigation image, which was captured scattered star cluster NGC 3532 "Well Wishes" from the constellation of the Keel. After the flight in 2015, it was decided in the period from 2016 to 2021 to explore the Kuiper belt, located at a distance of 30-55 astronomical units from the Sun and containing the body, remaining after the formation of the Solar system.
The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken by Voyager 1 back in 1990.
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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", Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, released Thursday.
New Horizons is the probe that flew by Pluto on July 14, 2015, and beamed back those unbelievable pictures.
They might not look like much, sure―the above images are the closest ever taken of objects within the Kuiper Belt―but it's a landmark moment for space photography all the same.
New Horizons was launched on January 19, 2006.
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Just two hours after breaking the almost three-decade-old record, New Horizons broke its own record, photographing two small KBOs, 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 from an even more distant location. They're also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects.
"Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings", the space agency says.
Only the fifth spacecraft to travel beyond the solar system's gas giant planets, after Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, New Horizons is now continuously measuring plasma, dust, and neutral gas in its environment.
"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", Alan Stern, the mission's principal investigator, said in the NASA statement.
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New Horizons is sleeping now, resting up for its next big adventure.