New Horizons Sends Back New, Bigger Photos Of Pluto

Latest image of pluto, without Charon, showing distinct regions of light and dark via NASA

If you're already tired of hearing about New Horizons, the NASA spacecraft on a one-way mission past Pluto, then brace yourself because it's going to be a long 46 or so days. New Horizons is set to flyby Pluto on July 14, 2015, so get your Pluto party banners ready for the big day. 

New Horizons has just sent in its latest photos of Pluto, and they show it in more detail than ever before—again. Pluto makes one full rotation around its axis every 6.4 Earth days, which gives us ample opportunity to photograph the dwarf planet's best angle.

Pluto may not look like much from these photos: a white blob that was the size of a thumbtack is now the size of a penny. But it's not the size that scientists are interested in. These photos, with nearly double the number of pixels as the mid-April images, reveal some interesting new information about the dwarf planet. They indicate that Pluto has distinct faces and isn't a featureless space rock. One bright region may even be a polar cap.

"These new images show us that Pluto's differing faces are each distinct; likely hinting at what may be very complex surface geology or variations in surface composition from place to place," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "These images also continue to support the hypothesis that Pluto has a polar cap whose extent varies with longitude; we'll be able to make a definitive determination of the polar bright region's iciness when we get compositional spectroscopy of that region in July."

Pluto via NASA

Pluto via NASA

Pluto via NASA

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