The New Horizons spacecraft made history in December last year snapping images of objects farther from Earth than ever before. Although the NASA spacecraft broke it’s own record just two hours later, the first images to surpass Voyager’s February 1990 record were of the “Wishing Well” cluster.
“New Horizons has long been a mission of firsts,” said mission principal investigator Alan Stern. “First to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched. And now, we’ve been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history.”
The “Wishing Well” cluster images were taken on December 5, 2017, by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). The images narrowly overtook Voyager’s record that had stood for more than 27 years. At 6.12 billion kilometres (3.79 billion miles, or 40.9 astronomical units), the “Wishing Well” cluster images beat Voyager’s record by 600 million kilometres.
The 6.12-billion-kilometers record lasted just hours though with New Horizons breaking its own record with images of Kuiper Belt objects 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85.
New Horizons is currently in hibernation covering more than 1.1 million kilometres (700,000 miles) daily. The spacecraft is just the fifth ever to travel beyond the outer planets and has been breaking records ever since its launch. The NASA spacecraft’s records include the “most-distant course-correction manoeuvre ever” and the “farthest planetary encounter in history”.
New Horizons Kuiper Belt Visit
Mission controllers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory are currently preparing to bring New Horizons out of its electronic slumber in June. The spacecraft will then undergo a series of system checks to ensure its readiness for its MU69 encounter on January 1, 2019.
Image Credit (main): NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Steve Gribben