Pluto Painstakingly Probed Perfectly!
First images sent back from the New Horizons spacecraft have given planetary scientists much to think about. Images were first shown during a NASA news conference that was held on July 15th at 3PM EDT. Alan Stern was happy to report that photos of the surface of Pluto seem to match up nicely with the teams predicted models. Vertical cliffs are an indicator that much of the surface of Pluto is comprised of water ice. A thin veneer of Nitrogen indicates that Pluto may possess active cryo-volcanoes or geysers emitting Nitrogen into the local space. These first images are tantalizing, but the real bulk of the images won't be sent back in their entirety for about another year and a half.
The New Horizons spacecraft will now continue on out further into the far reaches of outer space. The team has three Kuiper Belt Objects (essentially small objects about 1 to 2% of the size of Pluto) that are being evaluated as potential targets for a follow-on New Horizons fly-by. Meanwhile, Pluto will never be seen the same after New Horizons' brief but thorough visit.