Scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center received the latest view (above) of Pluto, taken with New Horizons’ onboard Long Range Reconnaissance Imager.
“The next time we see this part of Pluto at closest approach, a portion of this region will be imaged at about 500 times better resolution than we see today,” NASA’s Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team Leader Jeff Moore said in an official statement. “It will be incredible!”
Photographed on Tuesday (July 7) and beamed to the center on Wednesday (July 8), New Horizons would have been only 8 million kilometers (approximately 5 million miles) away from Pluto. It’s the first photo since the spacecraft went into safe mode on Independence Day (July 4).
As stated by NASA, “this side of Pluto is dominated by three broad regions of varying brightness. Most prominent are an elongated dark feature at the equator, informally known as “the whale,” and a large heart-shaped bright area measuring some 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) across on the right. Above those features is a polar region that is intermediate in brightness.”
All of this excitement is merely build-up to the main event of New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto of its nine-year journey on July 14.