New Horizons flew past Pluto in 2015.
The images for "Pale Blue Dot" - part of a composite - were taken 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers) away. Considering that was an image of our own planet taken from afar, it figures that it'd probably remain the more popular and iconic of the two―humanity can be self-centered, after all, and the Kuiper Belt is remote.
In so doing, they also broke a record that had stood untouched since 1990, when the Voyager 1 spacecraft sent back a final glimpse of Earth before its cameras went dark.
Just two hours after breaking the almost three-decade-old record, New Horizons broke its own record, photographing two small KBOs, 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 from an even more distant location.
It thus broke the previous record set in February 1990, when the apparatus "Voyager 1" got famous photograph Pale Blue Dot from a distance of about of 6.06 billion kilometers from Earth. This is a TRANS-Neptunian object from the Kuiper belt makes one revolution around the Sun for 295 years. The targeted object is known as 2014 MU69; the spacecraft will pass within 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers). Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings. A similar search was done of the region around Pluto prior to the 2015 flyby.
New Horizon's principal investigator Alan Stern said in the statement that the unmanned, piano-sized probe, launched in 2006, "has been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched".
New Horizons is sleeping now, resting up for its next big adventure. NASA says there are plans for New Horizons to make flyby investigations of some two dozen objects, like "dwarf planets and 'Centaurs, ' former [Kuiper Belt objects] in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the giant planets". Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazine's guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, will bring the spacecraft out of its electronic slumber on June 4th and begin a series of system checkouts and other activities to prepare New Horizons for the MU69 encounter.
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