Cape Canaveral, Florida - The NASA spacecraft that gave us close-ups of Pluto has set a record for the farthest photos ever taken.
In December — while 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers) from Earth — the New Horizons spacecraft snapped a picture of a star cluster. The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1.
The images for "Pale Blue Dot" — part of a composite — were taken 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometres) away.
New Horizons took more photos as it sped deeper into the cosmos in December. These pictures show two objects in the Kuiper Belt, the so-called twilight zone on the fringes of our solar system.
See this image? It's the farthest image from Earth ever taken! Our @NASANewHorizons spacecraft – which is on its way to the distant, icy Kuiper Belt – took this image of objects in that region on Dec. 5 when it was 3.79 billion miles from our home planet: https://t.co/K8BOFWB6Oj pic.twitter.com/VhwInKxhUZ
New Horizons flew past Pluto in 2015. It's headed toward an even closer encounter with another icy world, 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019. The targeted object is known as 2014 MU69; the spacecraft will pass within 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers).
"New Horizons just couldn't be better ... we're bearing down on our flyby target," said lead scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
New Horizons is currently in electronic hibernation. Flight controllers at a Johns Hopkins University lab in Laurel, Maryland, will awaken the spacecraft in June and start getting it ready for the flyby.
The spacecraft was launched in 2006.