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Our farthest-out camera sends cosmic snapshot

Kuiper Belt objects
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 / JHUAPL / SwRI Photo)

Two and a half years after becoming the first probe to study Pluto up close, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is gaining more fame for possessing the solar system’s farthest-out camera in operation.

Today NASA released a set of images captured by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager on Dec. 5 of last year, when the piano-sized probe was 3.79 billion miles from Earth.

One of LORRI’s pictures shows the “Wishing Well” star cluster, a scattering of points of light that New Horizons could use for camera calibration purposes.

Two hours later, LORRI looked at two objects in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy objects that New Horizons has been traveling through in the wake of its Pluto encounter. The “Wishing Well” view and those two false-color images, showing the objects known as 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85, are what gave LORRI its record as the farthest-out camera.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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