NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has set a new record by capturing the farthest images from Earth by a spacecraft, surpassing the Voyager 1's record of capturing an image when it was 6.06 billion kilometres away from Earth.
The previous record - not set on December 9, 2017 - came from the beloved Voyager 1 back in February 1990 with its "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth from 3.75 billion miles from home. The probe also photographed Pluto's "chaotically jumbled mountains" some of which are around 11,000 feet high.
But New Horizons is the first to send back a picture for so far afield. "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".
FILE - This image made available by NASA on Friday, July 24, 2015 shows a combination of images captured by the New Horizons spacecraft with enhanced colors to show differences in the composition and texture of Pluto's surface.
Now, New Horizons is heading towards the Kuiper belt and will make a close flyby of Kuiper belt object on January 1, 2019. The images of the Kuiper Belt objects are the closest images ever of the belt's objects and, now, officially the farthest from Earth.More news: California lawmaker and #MeToo advocate accused of sexual misconduct
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As for what the New Horizons spacecraft is going almost 4 billion miles from Earth, NASA reports that it started an extended mission in the Kuiper Belt past year.
Most of the time, New Horizons is sleeping - hibernating, to save energy. It's not just taking awesome photos on its path, but also carrying measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along the way, enabling astronomers to better understand the outskirts of our solar system. 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".
After the fly-by, the spacecraft continued into the Kuiper Belt - similar to the asteroid belt but further out from the Sun and composed of dwarf planets and frozen ice, rather than rocky bodies.
New Horizons is reportedly healthy and everything is functioning as planned. When that happens, it will break the record again.