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

Posted February 11, 2018

That image, known as the "Pale Blue Dot", was taken from 3.75 billion miles (6 billion km) away. Then, the spacecraft broke its own record again two hours later, when it took photos of two objects in the Kuiper Belt, the large cloud of icy objects at the edge of the Solar System that New Horizons is now traversing.

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

"Our flyby of MU69 on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day 2019 will be an exciting sequel to the historic exploration New Horizons performed at Pluto in 2015", added Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. With its latest wake-up, it broke the record for the farthest image humanity has ever taken away from Earth. The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1.

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New Horizons broke its own record by taking the image of the two KBOs shown above. The distance? Over 6.1 billion kilometers. The red line marks the path of the New Horizons spacecraft.

New Horizons has been on an extended mission in the Kuiper Belt, a region of the solar system just beyond Neptune's orbit, since 2017.

The spacecraft became the first to fly over Pluto in 2015, and the first to explore the Kuiper Belt. On Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, The Associated Press has found that stories circulating on the internet claiming Pluto has been officially reclassified as a planet are untrue.

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New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as so-called Centaurs - former KBOs in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the giant planets on the edge of our solar system.

The Kuiper belt object flyby is "not almost as flashy as Pluto", Porter said, but "it's a really unique observation". The probe is traveling further out from our solar system to study what's in the Kuiper Belt, which is generally made up of frozen masses of rock and ice.

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The Kuiper Belt is similar to the asteroid belt but is far larger: 20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. New Horizons began its Kuiper Belt mission past year. The next awakening is scheduled for June 4.

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