NASA's New Horizons snaps farthest images by any spacecraft

For a short time this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager frame of the

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New Horizons recorded a picture of a star cluster taken from almost 4 billion miles away, breaking the previous record.

New Horizons is the probe that flew by Pluto on July 14, 2015, and beamed back those incredible pictures.

According to NASA, this New Year's Day feat will be the farthest planetary encounter in the history of space exploration.

The "pale blue dot". Voyager 1's achievement lasted as long as it did because the mission crew shut off the camera shortly after capturing the Pale Blue Dot image.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is making history again, this time one-upping the legendary Voyager 1.


The images were captured using the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). "The spacecraft also is making almost continuous measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along its path", it added.

"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, notes in a statement. Some 6.06 billion km from Earth, Voyager 1 took the picture as part of a composite of 60 images looking back at the solar system. To send its recent images of the KBOs, Stern tells Pappas, it took the craft four hours just to transmit the data and another six hours for that information to reach Earth, where NASA's Deep Space Network is able to gather the faint signal. 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.

"Those are the farthest out images ever taken", says Dr. Andy Cheng, with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel. Two Pioneer probes-Pioneer 10 and 11-have also traveled farther away than New Horizons, but NASA lost contact with them years ago. (Pluto is one of these dwarf planets.) 2014 MU69 is almost a billion miles beyond Pluto, which itself is 4.67 billion miles (7.5 billion km) beyond Earth.

During more than a decade of cruising through space, New Horizons has already made several flybys of planets in our Solar System.

"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.

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