comScore New Horizons Mission First Images of Pluto | The Mary Sue

Over 9 Years After Launch, New Horizons Sends Its First Images of Pluto

This is exciting whether it's a planet or not.

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The New Horizons spacecraft will reach Pluto later this year, but over 9 years after its initial launch, it has finally sent back its first images of its dwarf planet destination.

It was still more than 126 million miles from Pluto—a bit farther than the ~93 million mile distance from the Earth to the Sun—when the pictures were taken, but having the target in sight is an exciting milestone. Here’s what its Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager captured from Pluto and its largest moon, Charon:

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(image via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

They may only be a few pixels wide each at this point, but in about 99 days, New Horizons will be close enough to image Pluto better than Hubble ever has. It’ll be the best view we’ve ever gotten of the distant non-planet, and the spacecraft will actually arrive at Pluto about two months later for some even more impressive observations.

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(image via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

The images, taken in late January, were released yesterday, February 4, to celebrate the birthday of the late astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto back in 1930. Tombaugh’s daughter, Annette Tombaugh, said in New Horizons’ press release, “My dad would be thrilled with New Horizons. To actually see the planet that he had discovered and find out more about it, to get to see the moons of Pluto … he would have been astounded. I’m sure it would have meant so much to him if he were still alive today.”

(via Washington Post, featured image via NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)

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Dan is a video game modding hobbyist and secret ninja who lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa Brown, and his dog, Liz Lemon, both of whom are the best.