NASA New Horizons creates history by shooting breathtaking image at farthest distance from Earth
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NASA New Horizons creates history by shooting breathtaking image at farthest distance from Earth

The US space agency NASA’s iconic spacecraft New Horizon’s that is exploring objects in Kuiper Belt has shattered another record and made history when the legendary probe captured an image from the farthest distance from Earth. The spacecraft shot beautiful field of stars through its telescopic camera and wrote its name in the history for making farthest image ever from Earth.

The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) installed aboard the New Horizons spacecraft captured a breathtaking of the “Wishing Well” galactic open star cluster on  on Dec. 5, from a distance of 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers, or 40.9 astronomical units) from Earth – making it, for a time, the farthest image ever made from Earth.

The previous record was held by the NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft when it captured the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image of Earth 27 years ago on Feb. 14, 1990. The spacecraft was 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers, or about 40.5 astronomical units [AU]) from Earth while shooting the image. Also, the picture was a composite photo and scientists used 60 different pics to make one beautiful image looking back at the solar system. Voyager 1’s cameras were turned off shortly after that portrait, leaving its distance record unchallenged for more than 27 years.

However, the new record didn’t last long as the New Horizons broke its own record two hours later by shooting another pic of objects 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 located in the Kuiper Belt. The spacecraft travels faster than a bullet at a speed of over 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) of space each day.

Distance and Speed

NASA’s robotic craft – the New Horizons mission which accomplished its first Pluto exploration operation in 2015, is getting ready to conduct a flyby of an ice-covered, far-flung city-mass cluster of rock, presented in the solar system. The mission will be commenced on 1st January 2019. Equipped with modest information about the targeted location, located nearly 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from Earth, the New Horizon will start its new mission with the start of New Year 2019.

The New Horizon Spacecraft, owned and operated by NASA is a flyby spaceship, which was intended for observing Pluto and Jupiter. The mission of New Horizon was commenced on January 19, 2006, and since then, the spaceship is the mission of discovering new facts about both the planets. New Horizons was the first spaceship to trip the mysterious Pluto system. After its flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto and its Moons on July 14, 2015, the probe documented as the first spaceship to visit Pluto. The last flyby mission of Pluto was completed in 2015, and since then, the spaceship is going through some upgrades and improvements, for its next adventure.

During its new courageous mission, the spacecraft will be headed for a tiny and antique celestial object, positioned about 1.6 billion kilometers (1 billion miles) in the Kuiper Belt, ahead of Pluto. This secluded constituency circles the cosmological system and is crammed with multi-million icy rocks whose explorations are yet to be made. The discovery of the new targeted extraterrestrial object dates back June 2014. The discovery was made by the Hubble Space Telescope and later, the object dubbed 2014 MU69.

Till date, astronomers and scientists are unconvinced regarding the exact size of the object. However, they are estimated it to be spread between 13 miles (21 kilometers) and 25 miles (40 kilometers). Despite this assumption of its size, scientists have no clue concerning its figure, orbiting speed, shade, or if it has any moons or not. The exploration mission of New Horizon will go through all such concerns and encounter these must-known factors about 2014 MU69.

New Horizons is just the fifth spacecraft to speed beyond the outer planets, so many of its activities set distance records. On Dec. 9 it carried out the most-distant course-correction maneuver ever, as the mission team guided the spacecraft toward a close encounter with a KBO named 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019. That New Year’s flight past MU69 will be the farthest planetary encounter in history, happening one billion miles beyond the Pluto system – which New Horizons famously explored in July 2015.

During its extended mission in the Kuiper Belt, which began in 2017, New Horizons is aiming to observe at least two-dozen other KBOs, dwarf planets and “Centaurs,” former KBOs in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the giant planets. Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects’ shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings. The spacecraft also is making nearly continuous measurements of the plasma, dust and neutral-gas environment along its path.

The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and is currently in hibernation. Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, will bring the spacecraft out of its electronic slumber on June 4 and begin a series of system checkouts and other activities to prepare New Horizons for the MU69 encounter.

Here’s an excerpt on Kuiper Belt from Wikipedia

The Kuiper belt occasionally called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun. It is similar to the asteroid belt, but is far larger—20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies or remnants from when the Solar System formed. While many asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed “ices”), such as methane, ammonia and water. The Kuiper belt is home to three officially recognized dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea and Makemake. Some of the Solar System’s moons, such as Neptune’s Triton and Saturn’s Phoebe, may have originated in the region.

The Kuiper belt was named after Dutch-American astronomer Gerard Kuiper, though he did not predict its existence. In 1992, Albion was discovered, the first Kuiper belt object (KBO) since Pluto and Charon. Since its discovery, the number of known KBOs has increased to over a thousand, and more than 100,000 KBOs over 100 km (62 mi) in diameter are thought to exist. The Kuiper belt was initially thought to be the main repository for periodic comets, those with orbits lasting less than 200 years. Studies since the mid-1990s have shown that the belt is dynamically stable and that comets’ true place of origin is the scattered disc, a dynamically active zone created by the outward motion of Neptune 4.5 billion years ago; scattered disc objects such as Eris have extremely eccentric orbits that take them as far as 100 AU from the Sun.