NASA's New Horizons spacecraft launched in 2006 and traveled almost three billion miles. There's only eleven more weeks to go until it reaches Pluto, but its already capturing fascinating images of Pluto's surface taken at a distance of 93 million to 64 million miles away.
“These incredible images are the first in which we can begin to see detail on Pluto, and they are already showing us that Pluto has a complex surface," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern in a NASA press release.
According to Stern, the images show us that Pluto is tipped on its side like Uranus, and we're able to see one of its moons (Charon) orbiting around it. The other moons are too faint too see. "Pluto is rotating before us like a chicken on a barbecue spit," he said in today's press conference.
Stern mentioned that the bright spots we see may be evidence of a polar ice cap, but we won't know for sure until we have more data. We already do know that Pluto's color is somewhat reddish, however.
“We can only imagine what surprises will be revealed when New Horizons passes approximately 7,800 miles above Pluto’s surface this summer,” said Hal Weaver, the mission’s project scientist.