Pluto Gets Up Close and Personal in Latest NASA Photos

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Looking good for a dwarf planet.

A little more than a year ago, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft did a Pluto flyby, snapping a bunch of pictures of the dwarf planet that got scientists really, really excited.  On Wednesday, NASA scientists released the latest image, which was taken at about 9,850 miles from Pluto’s surface and a little more than 20 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach (8,000 miles) to the planet. 

The entire “mosaic strip” is about 50 miles wide and extends north to south along the planet’s surface. According to NASA, this is a landscape you don’t see everyday: “This is the most detailed view of Pluto’s terrain you’ll see for a very long time,” the agency said. You can see the full panorama in the video below.

Here’s exactly why you should be swooning, according to NASA:

Starting with hummocky, cratered uplands at top, the view crosses over parallel ridges of “washboard” terrain, chaotic and angular mountain ranges, cellular plains, coarsely “pitted” areas of sublimating nitrogen ice, zones of thin nitrogen ice draped over the topography below, and dark mountainous highlands scarred by deep pits.

New Horizons traveled a cool 3 billion miles from Earth to take these glamour shots, and scientists say it will take up to 16 months from the mission last July to fully transmit all the data. In the meantime, work it, Pluto.