PHOTOS: Nine Years Later, Pluto’s Veil Is Finally Lifted

NASA has released the best-ever picture of Pluto since its discovery in 1930

Jul 15, 2015 at 3:22 PM ET

New Horizons has given us Earth dwellers our best ever look at Pluto—and surprise, surprise, it’s spectacular.

NASA has released the first images the spacecraft taken during this week’s historic flyby, where it passed within 7,750 miles of the dwarf planet, travelling at 30,800 miles per hour. To give that perspective, Tuesday’s photo which appeared to depict the outline of a heart on Pluto’s surface—now called Tombaugh Regio—was taken at a distance of 476,000 miles, around 16 hours before New Horizons’ closest approach.

The photographs of Pluto are the best we’ll get for the foreseeable future, as New Horizons has completed its main duty and is already on its way towards deep space. Wednesday’s images are just the first segment of a trove of data aboard New Horizons that will take around 16 months to fully download as it is transmitted across 3.6 billion miles of space between Pluto and Earth.