Anyone who's passionate about astronomy and outer space knows that few things can compare to the grandeur and beauty of deep space photography, and on that front, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is doing great work.
Interplanetary station, New Horizons has established a record, having received images of celestial bodies with the maximum available distance from the Earth to date.
They might not look like much, sure―the above images are the closest ever taken of objects within the Kuiper Belt―but it's a landmark moment for space photography all the same.
That's about 6 million kilometres (3.7 million miles) further out than the Voyager 1 spacecraft was when it captured the famous Pale Blue Dot image of Earth back in 1990. The photos have now arrived on Earth and NASA has made them public.
Before we eventually lose touch with New Horizons, it's hoped that it will tell us plenty more about the Kuiper Belt.
In fact, New Horizons broke the record twice in quick succession, first snapping a shot of a group of distant stars called the Wishing Well, around 1,300 light-years away from our planet. "A new close-up of a small region on Pluto's surface also reveals towering ice mountains, up to 11,000 feet high".
"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. This is a TRANS-Neptunian object from the Kuiper belt makes one revolution around the Sun for 295 years.
"Mission scientists study the images to determine the objects' shapes and surface properties, and to check for moons and rings", the space agency says.
On December 9, 2017, it carried out the most-distant course-correction manoeuver ever, as the mission team guided the spacecraft toward a close encounter with a KBO named 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.
For now, though, New Horizons is now enjoying some well-deserved hibernation as it hurtles away from us at a rate of roughly 700,000 miles a day.
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