“We’ve learned that the view of four inner rocky planets and four outer gas giants and one misfit Pluto is wrong. Now we understand Pluto’s context.” -Alan Stern
After a 9 year journey to Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to Pluto this past July, taking so much data that it will take a full 16 months to send it all back. The first of the highest resolution photos ever taken were released by NASA earlier today.
Even though the data has yet to be scientifically analyzed, a visual inspection teaches us a number of things about its sedimentary history, its active geology and its transient, eroding mountainous terrain. Perhaps the best part: Pluto is the prototype for the most common type of world in the Universe, even though it’s not a planet anymore.