NASA probe delivers Pluto’s closest close-up

Image: Pluto heart
A heart-shaped patch of nitrogen-rich ice (outlined in red) lies next to a mountain range on Pluto, as seen in a picture from NASA’s New Horizons probe. (Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI with heartification by Vicknesh Selvamani / @Vicknesh96)

If you heart Pluto, you’ll love the sharpest, closest close-up of the dwarf planet, just sent back by NASA’s New Horizons probe.

The images, captured from a distance of 10,000 miles during the July 14 flyby, include a heart-shaped block of nitrogen-rich ice right on the edge of the big heart-shaped region known informally as Tombaugh Regio.

You can also see the craggy blocks of water ice that form the al-Idrisi mountains, bull’s-eye impact craters on Sputnik Planum, and ripples and layers in Pluto’s icy crust. The pictures have a maximum resolution of 250 feet per pixel, which is less than the length of a football field.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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