Even though Pluto was demoted from its former full planet status in 2006, it appears that the dwarf planet is still in a pretty good mood and also appears to be in love. NASA’s spacecraft called New Horizons is currently closing in on Pluto and an image taken by it shows that the surface of the small planet has a heart on it.
The heart shaped area on Pluto is around 1,200 miles across and its material which is of lighter color is quite in contrast with other dark spots that are similar in size and were spotted in images taken prior to this one. The image was shot on Tuesday from a 5 million miles distance. NASA’s probe is currently moving in even closer to the dwarf planet and will soon be able to send higher quality pictures back containing this interesting feature on the surface of Pluto.
Jeff Moore from NASA said that the next time they will be able to spot this part of the planet, this region will be captured at a quality of around 500 times better than the one they have at the moment. He also said that this will be incredible.
Other than the lighter colored heart, there is another darker area in the picture in the lower half which is known as “the whale”.
The New Horizons spacecraft was sent out in 2006 in a mission to analyze the planet and ever since then the probe has been constantly sending back images which are increasingly clearer as it’s approaching its target. NASA said that they’ve gone from incredibly blurry pictures to images showing identifiable features on the landscape. And “the heart” is probably one of the best examples of said clearer pictures.
NASA announced earlier this week that New Horizon is facing some technical issues which came as a scare to space fans. The spacecraft couldn’t get in contact with mission control for more than an hour and it eventually ended up switching to a computer used as backup.
Fortunately the spacecraft recover from the hiccup and is currently on track to finish its mission as it was intended to. NASA said that the spacecraft is officially back on track and is expected to complete the mission. This image with the heart spotted on Pluto is the first one received by mission control on Earth after the technical difficulty occurred.
Image Source: space.com