#YouShouldCareAbout Pluto and its amazing 1600m heart

Clearly somebody loves the shape seen on Pluto...
Clearly somebody loves the shape seen on Pluto…

HUGE news out of NASA in the last few days: For the first time, we’re finally getting a look at the planet-not-a-planet-might-be-a-planet-oh-it’s-a-dwarf-planet Pluto thanks to incredible footage from New Horizons . It really is amazing.

Here's Pluto, as we've never seen it before. PICTURE: www.nasa.gov
Here’s Pluto, as we’ve never seen it before.
PICTURE: http://www.nasa.gov

The images debuted on Nasa’s Instagram feed [which you really should check out, by the way, because they promised shortly before 5am CAT that more was to come — “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”] Of course, it is the heart-shaped part of the surface that stands out and had gotten all the attention. Perhaps rightfully so. It’s not often we’ll see a clearly defined shape that clearly on the surface of a dwarf planet 7.5-billion kilometres away [according to space.com]. The heart is described as “mysterious”, and will be the subject of super high-res images that’ll soon be released [because of the sheer distance that has to be covered, the pics arrive several hours after being taken]. Oh, and the heart is likely to be a patch of frost.

We also now know Pluto’s true size: it is about 2 370km in diameter, which is “somewhat larger than many prior estimates”.

NASA's New Horizons, which took the images. PICTURE: www.nasa.gov
NASA’s New Horizons, which took the images.
PICTURE: http://www.nasa.gov

For me, though, one of coolest elements of the whole Pluto saga has been just how much more clearly we’ve been able to see it and its features. Previously, the Hubble Space Telescope was able to provide us with some images of Pluto, but they weren’t particularly great. That has now changed, thanks to New Horizons. As first posted by Luke Bailey, this gif shows the difference:

Incredible, isn't it... GIF: @imbadatlife on Twitter
Incredible, isn’t it…
GIF: @imbadatlife on Twitter

NASA has also made available a great video, based on photos taken “during the final week of its almost 10-year, three-billion-mile journey”:

And, lastly, you should really check out their gallery.


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