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Pluto comes into focus

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Pluto comes into focus

As NASA’s unmanned New Horizons spacecraft speeds closer to a historic 14 July Pluto flyby, it’s continuing to multi-task, producing images of an icy world that’s growing more fascinating and complex every day. On 11 July 2015, New Horizons captured an image that suggests some new features that are of keen interest to the Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team now assembled at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland.

For the first time on Pluto, this view reveals linear features that may be cliffs, as well as a circular feature that could be an impact crater. Just starting to rotate into view on the left side of the image is the bright heart-shaped feature that will be seen in more detail during New Horizons’ closest approach.

The New Horizons spacecraft has passes the 1-million miles to Pluto milestone, and is now approaching the planet after a more than nine-year, 3-billion mile journey. At 7:49 AM EDT on Tuesday, 14 July, the unmanned spacecraft will zip past Pluto at 49 600km per hour, with a suite of seven science instruments busily gathering data.

The mission will complete the initial reconnaissance of the solar system with the first-ever look at the icy dwarf planet.

Pictured: On July 11, 2015, New Horizons captured a world that is growing more fascinating by the day. For the first time on Pluto, this view reveals linear features that may be cliffs, as well as a circular feature that could be an impact crater. Rotating into view is the bright heart-shaped feature that will be seen in more detail during New Horizons’ closest approach on 14 July. The annotated version includes a diagram indicating Pluto’s north pole, equator and central meridian.

Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI