Closing in on Pluto: dwarf planet shows its face and heart

The newest image of Pluto, taken by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera less than six days before closest approach. The long dark area called the “whale” is in the lower left and the brighter “heart” region is in the lower right. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
The newest image of Pluto, taken by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera less than six days before closest approach. The long dark area called the “whale” is in the lower left and the brighter “heart” region is in the lower right. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

With less than six days remaining now until closest approach, Pluto is starting to show its real face for the first time ever, including a big “heart.”

Read MoreClosing in on Pluto: dwarf planet shows its face and heart

After glitch, New Horizons to resume science operations July 7, before Pluto encounter

The newest maps of Pluto, as of two weeks before closest approach. A black and white reflectance map has been combined with a natural colour map to produce the map in the center. Four dark patches of about the same size and spacing can also be seen in these and other recent images. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
The newest maps of Pluto, as of two weeks before closest approach. A black and white reflectance map has been combined with a natural colour map to produce the map in the center. Four dark patches of about the same size and spacing can also be seen in these and other recent images. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

After an anomaly was detected onboard the New Horizons spacecraft on July 4, which had many people holding their collective breath, NASA announced today that science operations will resume on July 7, just days before the spacecraft makes its closest approach to Pluto and its moons on July 14.

Read MoreAfter glitch, New Horizons to resume science operations July 7, before Pluto encounter

New colour images show ‘two faces’ of Pluto and odd dark spots along equator

New colour images of Pluto sent back by New Horizons showing two different “faces” or hemispheres of the dwarf planet and its largest moon Charon. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
New colour images of Pluto sent back by New Horizons showing two different “faces” or hemispheres of the dwarf planet and its largest moon Charon. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

First there were the unusual bright spots on Ceres, which are still awaiting an explanation, and now as New Horizons races toward its flyby encounter with Pluto on July 14, another mystery has emerged: four intriguing large dark spots more or less along Pluto’s equator which seem to be roughly the same size and evenly spaced. The spots are mentioned as part of an update on July 1 from NASA about the “two different faces of Pluto” that scientists are now starting to see in more detail.

Read MoreNew colour images show ‘two faces’ of Pluto and odd dark spots along equator

Image Gallery: new images of Pluto (May 29 – June 2, 2015)

New Horizons images of Pluto from May 29 - June 2, 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
New Horizons images of Pluto from May 29 – June 2, 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

These are the newest images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft as it continues to get closer. Light and dark surface features are starting to be seen more clearly now, and closest encounter is now just over a month away!

Read MoreImage Gallery: new images of Pluto (May 29 – June 2, 2015)

Image Gallery: new Pluto images from New Horizons

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Composite of three new Pluto images. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Paul Scott Anderson

These are the newest images of Pluto from New Horizons, taken from May 8-12, 2015, at a distance of just under 77 million kilometres (50 million miles). More detail on the surface can be seen now, with a lot of albedo variations. Not much longer now until closest approach on July 14, when the best images then will have 5,000 times the resolution of these ones!

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Image Gallery: first colour photo of Pluto from New Horizons

The first colour photo of Pluto and its largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons. Photo Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
The first colour photo of Pluto and its largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on April 9, 2015. The spacecraft will make its closest approach on July 14, 2015. Photo Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This is the first colour photo of the dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon Charon taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. It was taken on April 9, 2015, from a distance of about 71 million 115 million kilometers (71 million miles).

Read MoreImage Gallery: first colour photo of Pluto from New Horizons