Far out! NASA spacecraft sets record with photos

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Back then, iconic astronomer Carl Sagan had to convince NASA to turn the spacecraft's cameras around to snap the iconic image of our own planet before it ended its mission. With these pictures, New Horizons breaks a record of 27 years established by the NASA Voyager 1 probe when it captured the famous Earth photograph, Pale Blue Dot, at 6,0 60 million kilometers. After New Horizons launched in 2006, it flung itself around Jupiter in 2007 to get a boost toward Pluto, where it arrived in summer 2015.

These false-color images of two Kuiper Belt objects, 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 (right), helped give New Horizons' LORRI instrument the title of farthest-out working camera.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has returned some magnificent images of the Solar System's outer reaches around Pluto, its primary target.

New Horizons has been on an extended mission in the Kuiper Belt, a region of the solar system just beyond Neptune's orbit, since 2017.

Among other things, New Horizons took pictures of Pluto's mountains and plains, capturing the dwarf planet's "heart", which according to Nasa, is "about the same distance as from Denver to Chicago".

NASA says the New Horizons spacecraft is "healthy" and is now in hibernation. About two hours later, New Horizons later broke the record again. In the first week of December, it passed the Pale Blue Dot's record distance.

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This image, taken on December 5, 2017, shows the "Wishing Well" star cluster. In the meantime, we'll always have 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85.

The Kuiper Belt is similar to the asteroid belt but is far larger: 20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. Next to nothing is known about the micro-surfaces of objects like these, Porter said.

The probe is powered by a Star Trek-style ion drive and is journeying into the icy Kuiper Belt, one of the last truly unknown parts of our solar system. They're also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. But that will not be true when New Horizons wakes up in August. 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".

The Kuiper belt object flyby is "not almost as flashy as Pluto", Porter said, but "it's a really unique observation".

New Horizons is reportedly healthy and everything is functioning as planned.