15 February, 2018
At the time, New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers) from Earth.
That image was made at a vantage point of 3.75 billion miles from Earth. On December 5th of previous year, it woke up and took a routine image of a star cluster called the Wishing Well to calibrate its camera, the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).
New Horizons is headed toward a KBO dubbed 2014 MU69, one of more than 20 far-off chunks of rock and ice NASA hopes to observe during the spacecraft's mission. The subjects include the "Wishing Well" star cluster as well as two large objects in the Kuiper Belt which have never been observed from such a distance before.
For the past 27 years, Voyager 1 has been the record holder for the farthest captured image in history. These images, which have since been released to the public, have set the new record for the most distant images ever taken.
"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, New Horizons Principal Investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. This also means that the spacecraft could break its distance record again.More news: Asteroid to make a very close pass by Earth
The images, as seen above (Kuiper Belt objects) and below (Wishing Well cluster), are somewhat grainy and not the most detailed we've seen from NASA, but that doesn't make the feat any less remarkable.
To date, New Horizons is the fifth spacecraft to venture beyond the outer planets.
Getting the images to Earth is no easy task.
The mission also broke a record that has been stagnant since 1990, when the Voyager 1 spacecraft sent back a final capture of Earth before the cameras on the craft were lost. To get there, New Horizons is trucking: It travels more than 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) a day. As Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience reports, after snapping an image and storing it on its hard drive, New Horizons sends its data back on an antenna that transmits at only 12 watts, moving data at a snail's pace-only two kilobits per second.
New Horizons snapped these two farthest-out shots, of Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85, on December 5, 2017.