Two images of Proxima Centauri, one taken by NASA’s New Horizons probe and the other by ground-based telescopes. The images show how the spacecraft’s view, from a distance of 7 billion kilometres, is very different from what we see on Earth, illustrating the parallax effect. Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Las Cumbres Observatory/Siding Spring Observatory
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, after historic flybys of Pluto in 2015 and the Kuiper Belt body Arrokoth in 2019, has chalked up another first: an interstellar parallax observation of two nearby stars, clearing showing them in different positions than when viewed from Earth.
Now 6.9 billion kilometres (4.3 billion miles) from Earth, New Horizons’ long-range telescopic camera captured views of Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 on April 22-23 that, when viewed side-by-side with ground-based images, show the suns jumping back and forth much like the tip of a finger moves left or right depending on which eye is looking at it.
When stereo “anaglyphs” of the stars are viewed through 3D glasses, Proxima Centauri, just 4.3 light years from Earth, and Wolf 359, just under eight light yeas away, appear to float in front of background stars.
The parallax effect is a long-used ...