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Pluto Looms Larger as New Horizons Spacecraft Closes in

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This is one of the most recent high-resolution views of Pluto sent by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) obtained these three images between July 1 and 3 of 2015, prior to the July 4 anomaly that sent New Horizons into safe mode. (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

New Horizons is in the home stretch. With fewer than 500,000 miles and less than a day to go until the NASA spacecraft whizzes by Pluto, the images it’s lobbing back across the roughly 3-billion-mile distance between Earth and Pluto are continuing to turn up fresh surprises.

Pluto was once little more than a blurry dot in the sky; now, the NASA spacecraft’s images reveal a complex surface with signs of ridges and cratering. Geologically speaking, there’s a lot going on on this little world.

After a 9 1/2-year journey through space, New Horizons will fly by Pluto on July 14 at 30,800 miles per hour, coming within roughly 7,750 miles of the dwarf planet. But it’s been taking images on its approach that are already changing the way we see this previously unknown world.

A July 11 view of Pluto reveals a circular feature with a dark spot in the middle, reminiscent of a bull’s-eye, that could potentially be a large crater, as well as linear structures in the southern hemisphere that might be cliffs.

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