Farthest photos ever taken, from nearly 4 billion miles away

This December 2017 false-color image made available by NASA in February 2018 shows KBO (Kuiper Belt object) 2012 HZ84. This image is, for now, one of the farthest pictures from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. (AP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Farthest photos ever taken, from nearly 4 billion miles away

CAPE CANAVERAL: 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 kilometers) 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.
NASA released the images this week.
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.


New NASA lander captures 1st sounds of Martian wind

In this image obtained from NASA, InSight's robotic-arm mounted Instrument Deployment Camera shows the instruments on the spacecraft's deck, with the Martian surface of Elysium Planitia in the background. (AFP)
Updated 08 December 2018
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New NASA lander captures 1st sounds of Martian wind

  • The noise is of the wind blowing against InSight’s solar panels and the resulting vibration of the entire spacecraft

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: NASA’s new Mars lander has captured the first sounds of the “really unworldly” Martian wind.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory released audio clips of the alien wind Friday. The low-frequency rumblings were collected by the InSight lander during its first week of operations at Mars.
The wind is estimated to be blowing 10 mph to 15 mph (16 kph to 24 kph). These are the first sounds from Mars that are detectible by human ears, according to the researchers.
“Reminds me of sitting outside on a windy summer afternoon ... In some sense, this is what it would sound like if you were sitting on the InSight lander on Mars,” Cornell University’s Don Banfield told reporters.
Scientists involved in the project agree the sound has an otherworldly quality to it.
Thomas Pike of Imperial College London said the rumbling is “rather different to anything that we’ve experienced on Earth, and I think it just gives us another way of thinking about how far away we are getting these signals.”
The noise is of the wind blowing against InSight’s solar panels and the resulting vibration of the entire spacecraft. The sounds were recorded by an air pressure sensor inside the lander that’s part of a weather station, as well as the seismometer on the deck of the spacecraft.
The low frequencies are a result of Mars’ thin air density and even more so the seismometer itself — it’s meant to detect underground seismic waves, well below the threshold of human hearing. The seismometer will be moved to the Martian surface in the coming weeks; until then, the team plans to record more wind noise.
The 1976 Viking landers on Mars picked up spacecraft shaking caused by wind, but it would be a stretch to consider it sound, said InSight’s lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt, of JPL in Pasadena, California.
The “really unworldly” sounds from InSight, meanwhile, have Banerdt imaging he’s “on a planet that’s in some ways like the Earth, but in some ways really alien.”
InSight landed on Mars on Nov. 26.
“We’re all still on a high from the landing last week ... and here we are less than two weeks after landing, and we’ve already got some amazing new science,” said NASA’s Lori Glaze, acting director of planetary science. “It’s cool, it’s fun.”