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NASA's New Horizons captures the farthest images ever taken from Earth

NASA's New Horizons captures the farthest images ever taken from Earth

The hazy pictures above may not look like much, but they're the farthest images a manmade spacecraft has ever made from Earth. But New Horizons actually broke it twice - first taking another image of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, then breaking it again two hours later with another stunning image.

Today NASA released a set of images captured by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager on December 5 of past year, when the piano-sized probe was 3.79 billion miles from Earth.

New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched, traveling at a speed of 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) per day. New Horizon's next target is a flyby through the Kuiper belt; hence, the latest images give an overview of what new destination of New Horizons. The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1. Porter calculated when New Horizons could best observe the two Kuiper belt objects and helped schedule the images. The distance? Over 6.1 billion kilometers.

New Horizons, in contrast, is just getting started.

New Horizons was launched on January 19, 2006.

The spacecraft became the first to fly over Pluto in 2015, and the first to explore the Kuiper Belt. It'll be the first up-close look of a Kuiper Belt object. (Dwarf planet Pluto is a part of the belt, but it was not recognized as such until the discovery of other Kuiper objects in the early 2000s.) Pluto was estimated in 2015 to be the largest object in the belt, though there are other dwarf planets of note, such as Eris, Haumea and Makemake.

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The New Horizons probe took an image which is the furthest ever created from Earth, beating a record set by NASA's Voyager probe.

The Kuiper belt object flyby is "not almost as flashy as Pluto", Porter said, but "it's a really unique observation". The Kuiper Belt is a disc-shaped expanse past the orbit of Neptune, about 2.7 billion to 9.3 billion miles (4.4 billion to 14.9 billion km) from the sun, that contains thousands of icy objects, comets and dwarf planets.

Two and a half years after becoming the first probe to study Pluto up close, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is gaining more fame for possessing the solar system's farthest-out camera in operation. That was followed up with the shots of the Kuiper Belt two hours later.

The previous record holder for the farthest picture was NASA's Voyager 1. But that will not be true when New Horizons wakes up in August.

On Earth, NASA's Deep Space Network antenna dishes catch the faint signals coming from New Horizons and reassemble the raw data into a usable form.

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