Space

New Horizons snaps photo of Voyager 1 from 11 billion miles away

New Horizons snaps photo of Vo...
Artist's concept of the New Horizons spacecraft
Artist's concept of the New Horizons spacecraft
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Artist's concept of the New Horizons spacecraft
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Artist's concept of the New Horizons spacecraft
The New Horizons photo of Voyager 1 (yellow circle), set against a backdrop of stars and galaxies
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The New Horizons photo of Voyager 1 (yellow circle), set against a backdrop of stars and galaxies
A diagram of the solar system and the five spacecraft that have left (or are leaving) for interstellar space
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A diagram of the solar system and the five spacecraft that have left (or are leaving) for interstellar space
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NASA’s New Horizons currently has a lot of time on its hands as it coasts through vast emptiness towards interstellar space. The probe has just passed a new milestone distance on the journey, and celebrated by taking a snap of its predecessor Voyager 1 – or at least, the patch of sky where it is.

Launched in 2006, New Horizons’ primary mission was to conduct a flyby of Pluto, which it achieved in 2015 with some stunning results. It followed that up with a close pass of Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth (previously nicknamed Ultima Thule) in early 2019. While astronomers hunt for other potential flyby targets in the Kuiper Belt, the craft continues to hurtle out of the solar system.

A diagram of the solar system and the five spacecraft that have left (or are leaving) for interstellar space
A diagram of the solar system and the five spacecraft that have left (or are leaving) for interstellar space

And on April 17, New Horizons ticked over a major (albeit entirely arbitrary) milestone – 50 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. That’s 50 times the distance between Earth and the Sun, or about 7.5 billion km (5 billion miles) away. It’s only the fifth spacecraft to travel that far, after Voyagers 1 and 2 and Pioneers 10 and 11.

To celebrate the occasion – and give the little probe something to do out there – New Horizons took a photo of Voyager 1. At a distance of more than 152 AU, Voyager 1 is currently the most distant human-made object in the universe, and was the first spacecraft to cross over into interstellar space.

The New Horizons photo of Voyager 1 (yellow circle), set against a backdrop of stars and galaxies
The New Horizons photo of Voyager 1 (yellow circle), set against a backdrop of stars and galaxies

In this photo, the two spacecraft are separated by an astonishing 18 billion km (11.2 billion miles). As such, you can’t actually see Voyager 1 amidst the star field, but NASA knows exactly where it is thanks to radio tracking, helpfully marking its location with a yellow circle.

While New Horizons will never catch up to Voyager 1, it will join it in interstellar space sometime in the 2040s. In the meantime, NASA is using the craft's unique perspective to measure the "blackness" of the sky and the phenomenon of stellar parallax.

Source: NASA

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6 comments
6 comments
RobertMinter
Light would take just 16.7 hours to travel from New Horizons to Voyager 1.
sidmehta
Michael, Don't you have some basic standards or of ethics and integrity guidelines at New Atlas? Stop using click-bait headlines. This is not a photo of the Voyager but of the sky in that area. Your headline is misleading. And intentionally so.
WB
ok this is the most ridiculous click bait ever. Anyone can take a photo circle some part and say that's -anything- just far away.
This is a black patch of space.. considering it a photo is misleading and a lie
Lamar Havard
Great snap, Michael! Unlike the P-O'ed nerd boys here, I wasn't expecting a V-ger portrait...guys, get a grip. Just knowing there are man-made craft out there just waiting to be found by aliens, who will build a giant vessel around it, is good enough for me. 👽🖖🏻
Chris Coles
very informative story, very well presented. Agree totally with Lamar Havard; Great snap!
Username
I'm with sidmehta and WB on this one.