New Horizons is the probe that flew by Pluto on July 14, 2015, and beamed back those unbelievable pictures. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. The new images are the closest images of Kuiper Belt objects obtained to date.
LORRI broke its own record just two hours later with images of Kuiper Belt objects 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85 - further demonstrating how nothing stands still when you're covering more than 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) of space each day. Now, it's reportedly snapped the farthest photo from Earth that's ever been taken.
At a distance of 3.79 billion miles from Earth, New Horizons recorded a picture of a star cluster this past December.
The images for "Pale Blue Dot" - part of a composite - were taken 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometres) away. They were the last photographs the probe took before its cameras were shut down.
The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken by Voyager 1 back in 1990.
New Horizons is the first NASA spacecraft to fly by Pluto and the fifth to speed beyond the outer planets. NASA says mission controllers will "bring the spacecraft out of its electronic slumber" this coming summer in anticipation of its next major close encounter, with an object known as 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019. Launched in 2006, the spacecraft made headlines in 2015 when its flyby of Pluto sent back vivid, high-definition images of the cold, icy dwarf planet that used to be but a smudge on telescopes.
Mission scientists plan to use images of these objects, captured by LORRI, to determine their shapes, sizes, and surface properties. This is a TRANS-Neptunian object from the Kuiper belt makes one revolution around the Sun for 295 years. A similar search was done of the region around Pluto prior to the 2015 flyby.
New Horizons is sleeping now, resting up for its next big adventure.
New Horizons is now in electronic hibernation.
"New Horizons has always been a mission of firsts - first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched", Alan Stern, the mission's principal investigator, said in the NASA statement. "And now, we've been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history". 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.