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Snapshot Of The Week: Humanity's First Close-Up Glimpse Of Pluto

The New Horizons spacecraft sent back long-awaited images to anxious audiences on Earth.

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Pluto encountered its first — and only — visitor in its 4.5 billion year lifespan on Tuesday as the New Horizons spacecraft completed the final leg of its historic journey.

The spacecraft flew within 7,767 miles of Pluto, sending long-awaited images back to an anxious audience on Earth.

The images aren’t just fun to look at; they add to scientists’ knowledge of the previously unexplored dwarf planet.

“The pictures showed ice mountains on Pluto about as high as the Rockies and chasms on its big moon Charon that appear six times deeper than the Grand Canyon,” wrote Marcia Dunn of the Associated Press. Additionally, Pluto turned out to be about 50 miles in diameter larger than estimated and seems to be geologically active.


The spacecraft's trip began nearly a decade ago when Pluto was still considered the ninth planet in our solar system. Although Pluto has since been downgraded to a dwarf planet, images of the icy world and its moons caused an eruption of excitement at NASA.

“This is a tremendous moment in human history,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s science mission chief. “We’ve opened up a new realm of the solar system.” 

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