NASA's New Horizons breaks record by taking the Most Distant Pictures Ever

This illustration provided by NASA shows the New Horizons spacecraft. The probe whipped past Pluto in 2015 and is headed to 2014 MU69 for an attempted 2019 flyby of the tiny icy world on the edge of the solar system

NASA's New Horizons probe has captured the farthest images from Earth by a spacecraft, surpassing Voyager 1's record of clicking a picture when it was 6.06 billion kilometres away from our planet.

Voyager's cameras were turned off shortly afterward and are no longer being used, even though the probe continues to zoom through the solar system's fringe at a distance of 13.2 billion miles.

Those snapshots of the December 2012 KBO 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 are so far the furthest ever captured by a spacecraft, and the closest to any body of Kuiper, the agency stressed in a statement. Both are floating in the Kuiper Belt, an area on the edge of our solar system that NASA's spacecraft is now exploring.

But New Horizons is the first to send back a picture for so far afield. Voyager took them by turning its lens back towards Earth as the spacecraft sailed beyond Neptune on February 14, 1990. Specifically, New Horizons is targeting 2014 MU69, a mysterious object (or pair of two objects) which Alan Stern, mission principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), has called "provocative" and a "scientific bonanza".

"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, was quoted as saying in a NASA statement.

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On January 19, 2006, New Horizons was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station by an Atlas V rocket directly into an Earth-and-solar escape trajectory with a speed of about 16.26 kilometers per second (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph).

Most of the time, New Horizons is sleeping - hibernating, to save energy.

New Horizons is best known for taking stunning photos of Pluto back in 2015. By then, it will have time to beat again and again it own record of farthest image ever taken from earth. In fact, the all we know about it has come from the Hubble Space Telescope (used to discover the object in 2014) and a comprehensive observation campaign last summer, in which the New Horizons team gathered data on MU69 as it passed in front of three stars.

New Horizons is still on an active mission to visit the Kuiper Belt. "This post-Pluto mission is a complete and comprehensive exploration of the Kuiper Belt", said Alice Bowman, New Horizons mission operations manager, also from APL. It performed an unprecedented flyby study of the Pluto system in 2015, offering a dramatic view of the dwarf planet and its satellites.

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