It turns out that the images recently snapped by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft have revealed that it got so far away from our planet that it essentially sees space differently than the observers back home, space.com reports.
According to the media outlet, as the spacecraft photographed stars Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, scientists compared the pictures to the images of those very same stars captured by two ground-based telescopes and noticed that said stars occupy "slightly different patches of sky than they do from our perspective here on Earth".
"It's fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator. "And that has allowed us to do something that had never been accomplished before — to see the nearest stars visibly displaced on the sky from the positions we see them on Earth."
The photos in question were taken by New Horizons on 22 and 23 April, when the craft was over 6.9 billion kilometers away from our planet.
And it turns out that when the stars' images taken by the probe and the images snapped by telescopes on Earth are overlaid, it appears as if the stars “jump”, with the media outlet noting that it showcases a "parallax effect".
For Wolf 359, the parallax from New Horizons is 16 arcsec. Combine its parallax with that of Proxima & you can locate NH's position in space. We have never before done interstellar navigation based on how the stars shift. pic.twitter.com/w6Ovr54gXz— Tod R. Lauer (@TodLauer) June 11, 2020
"The professional and amateur astronomy communities had been waiting to try this, and were very excited to make a little space exploration history," said New Horizons science team member Tod Lauer. "The images collected on Earth when New Horizons was observing Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 really exceeded my expectations."