After its visit to Pluto, the spacecraft headed out toward the Kuiper belt on its way to its next target, a Kuiper belt object (KBO) called 2014 MU69. "The telescopic camera actually beat its own record that it had set two hours before on the same day with an image of the "Wishing Well" cluster", NASA reports. With these pictures, New Horizons breaks a record of 27 years established by the NASA Voyager 1 probe when it captured the famous Earth photograph, Pale Blue Dot, at 6,0 60 million kilometers. It has the goal of observing "at least two-dozen" more Kuiper Belt objects.
Most of the time, New Horizons is sleeping - hibernating, to save energy.
The U.S. space agency says the spacecraft is now healthy and in hibernation, as the team behind it at Johns Hopkins plan to wake it up on June 4 of this year to prepare for its impending encounter with MU69. But every once in a while, it wakes up, and it snaps a few photos which it then beams back to Earth. The images of the Kuiper Belt objects are the closest images ever of these objects and, now, officially the farthest from Earth.
Image Carl Sagan and the 'Pale Blue Dot'
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 New Horizons spacecraft is said to be in good condition and is now hibernating, with mission control planning to awaken it again on June 4 in preparation for a flyby of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 in mid-2019. New Horizons was even farther from home than NASA's Voyager 1 when it captured the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth, according to the United States space agency. New Horizons is one of only five shuttles which has managed to reach the escape velocity required to exit the solar system. The probe is measuring levels of plasma, dust, and gases as it travels, and will eventually take a look at more than 20 other KBOs. It is now about 41 times as far from Earth as Earth is from the sun. Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings.
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