This record-breaking photo was taken from 6 billion km away

This record-breaking photo was taken from 6 billion km away

"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

New Horizons took more photos as it sped deeper into the cosmos in December.

In 1994, USA astronomer Carl Sagan reflected on the significance of the photograph to an audience at Cornell University, famously coining its name as the Pale Blue Dot, and giving one of the most widely published speeches of all time.

New Horizons is sleeping now, resting up for its next big adventure.

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. As fuzzy as they are, they're the closest look we've ever got at any objects inside this vast icy ring, which circles the Sun about 30 to 55 times further out than Earth.

New Horizons space craft
New Horizons space craft

"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, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. Astronomer Carl Sagan, who pitched the photo concept, famously remarked: "Look again at that dot".

For a brief period of time, this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) frame of the "Wishing Well" star cluster, was the farthest image ever made by a spacecraft, breaking a 27-year record set by Voyager 1.

New Horizons was even farther from home than NASA's Voyager 1 when it captured the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth. About two hours later, New Horizons later broke the record again. Next to nothing is known about the micro-surfaces of objects like these, Porter said. (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. Its latest snaps may not be its most spectacular, but are pioneering in their own way as the farthest images ever snapped away from the Earth. But that will not be true when New Horizons wakes up in August.

New Horizons first left Earth in 2006 with the aim of flying by Pluto, which it did in 2015, taking some dramatic photos along the way. On Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft is also scheduled to fly past a 20 mile-long frozen mass called 2014 MU69.

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