Dazzling false color: Scientists combined close-up images with color data from the Ralph instrument, creating a false color portrait of Pluto. The two bluish-white “lobes” that extend southwest and northeast from the “heart” may indicate shifting exotic ices.

A farewell to Pluto: Backlit by the sun, Pluto’s atmosphere shines like a halo.

Pluto’s flowing ice: Toward the north of Sputnik Planum, dark swirls suggest that a surface layer of ice has flowed around obstacles and into depressions, similar to glaciers.

Hillary Montes: Rising about one mile above the surrounding terrain, this newly discovered range of mountains is similar in height to the Appalachian Mountains. They have been informally named the Hillary Montes for Sir Edmund Hillary, who first summited Mount Everest in 1953.

Sputnik Planum’s southern region: Rich in complexity, this region includes Pluto’s icy plains to the northeast, two mountain ranges and an area where it appears that ancient, heavily cratered terrain has been invaded by much newer icy deposits. The “infilled crater,” labeled above, is about 30 miles wide, approximately the size of the greater D.C. area.

Nix and Hydra, the second and third moons: Nix, pictured here on the left with enhanced colors, reveals a reddish region. Hints of a bull’s-eye pattern could mean the area is a crater. Hydra, on the right, shows at least two large craters. It's upper portion looks darker, indicating possible variations in surface composition.

Animated flyover of Pluto's Norgay Montes: Using New Horizons' images, NASA created this animated flyover of Pluto's icy mountains, now named the Norgay Montes. Click here to see the full video.

Sputnik Planum and the Norgay Montes: A close-up of Tombaugh Reggio, also known as the heart of Pluto, with two newly named areas: Sputnik Planum and the Norgay Montes. The Norgay Montes were informally named for Tenzing Norgay, one of the first people to reach Mount Everest's summit.

Sputnik Planum's frozen plains: This area presents a stark contrast to the nearby Norgay Montes, which soar as high as the Rocky Mountains. Scientists said the lack of craters means the area is less than 100 million years old. The knobby hills in other parts could be made of harder material that resisted erosion, or they could have been pushed to the surface by tectonic activity. Pitting in the lower right, which resembles pitting in glaciers on Earth, will become clearer in later images.

An ion tail behind Pluto: New Horizons has already revealed much about Pluto’s atmosphere and the solar wind around it. The atmosphere is sluggish rather than turbulent, and it is mostly made of nitrogen. Because of Pluto’s weak gravity, about 500 tons per hour of atmospheric material — nitrogen ice — appears to be evaporating and escaping into space, carried by solar wind. (Mars, by comparison, loses about one ton per hour.)

Pluto’s icy mountains: Tombaugh Reggio. Scientists have not yet found a single impact crater on this surface. This means that this is likely a very young surface, probably less than 100 million years old. It might even be active right now. Mountains up to 11,000 feet high are visible and tens of miles wide.

Captivating features on Charon: The image here shows an area approximately 240 miles from top to bottom, including few visible craters and a depression with a peak in the middle. The image was taken on July 14 before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto.

Young and varied terrain on Charon, one of Pluto’s moons: A series of troughs and cliffs extend about 600 miles across the moon as a distinct line, possibly due to internal processes. Below the line is a relatively smooth area that may have been geologically active, therefore resurfacing the area. Toward the top right is a deep canyon, around 4 to 6 miles deep. At the north pole is a dark spot that could be just a thin veneer.

Methane ice on Pluto: Spectra from the New Horizons Ralph instrument reveal an abundance and variation of methane ice across the frozen surface of Pluto. The north polar cap is diluted in a thick, transparent slab of nitrogen ice.

What to look for in the new images

The annotated image here uses a picture of Pluto taken on July 13. At the bottom is Charon, one of Pluto’s moons.

What scientists learned about Pluto over the years

July 2015 Thanks to the preserving effects of icy temperatures, Pluto hasn’t changed as much as objects closer to the sun. Its formational composition could give insight to the materials that existed at the start of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. Mission scientists have also recently found Pluto to be 1,473 miles in diameter, larger than many prior estimates.

July 1-13, 2015 Thanks to the preserving effects of icy temperatures, Pluto hasn’t changed as much as objects closer to the sun. Its formational composition could give insight to the materials that existed at the start of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. Mission scientists have also recently found Pluto to be 1,473 miles in diameter, larger than many prior estimates.

2003 A view of Pluto constructed from multiple NASA Hubble Space Telescope photos taken from 2002 to 2003. Scientists gained a better idea of what comprised Pluto’s surface; the bright spot, in particular, seems to indicate an area unusually rich in carbon monoxide frost.

June 1994 The first glimpse of Pluto’s surface, this image was taken using the NASA Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists found that most of the surface features are likely produced by frosts that migrate across Pluto's surface and chemical byproducts from the nitrogen-methane atmosphere.

Feb. 21, 1994 Astronomers used this Hubble image to approximately measure Pluto’s diameter as 1,440 miles. Charon was also pictured as bluer than Pluto, suggesting both worlds have different surface composition and structure. A bright highlight on Pluto suggests it has a smoothly reflecting surface.

Jan. 23, 1930 The discovery of Pluto by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. The white arrow points to the planet.

What New Horizons saw on its 9-year journey to Pluto

Jan. 24, 2007: Pictured here is Jupiter and two of its moons, Io (bottom) and Ganymeade (top). New Horizons took this image while 35.3 million miles from the planet.

Feb. 27, 2007: Europa, another of Jupiter’s many moons, is approximately the same size as Earth’s moon. Scientists believe an ocean may exist about 60 miles below Europa’s fractured, icy surface.

Feb. 27, 2007: With a diameter of 3.273 miles, Ganymede is not only Jupiter’s largest moon, but is also the largest satellite in the solar system. The dark patches indicate older terrain, while the brighter areas consist of younger material. Recent impact craters dot the moon’s icy surface.

Feb. 28, 2007: Pictured here is an enormous 180-mile-high plume from the volcano Tvashtar, which is located near Io’s north pole. Several Mount Everest-size mountains also can be seen dotted across the moon’s surface.

Feb. 28, 2007: Callisto’s most prominent geological feature is its impact craters; each bright spot visible in these photos is a crater. The largest crater, the basin Valhalla, is visible as a bright patch at the top left of the moon.

Feb. 28, 2007: This image of Jupiter (rotated from the original) shows the diversity of structures in its atmosphere. Turbulent, whirlpool-like structures are located near the south pole of the planet. The structures become more elongated near the equator and take on dark “belts” and light “zones.” At the equator itself, the clouds transform into a herringbone pattern.

Feb. 28, 2007: This montage of Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io was created from two separate images. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible as a prominent blue-white oval at the bottom left of the planet. A major eruption is in progress on Io’s night side, at the northern volcano Tvashtar. Lava glows red beneath the bright blue volcanic plume.

March 2, 2007: A montage of the volcanic Io (top) and the more sedate Europa moons. The most visible of Io’s volcanic plumes is the enormous 190-mile-high plume from the Tvashtar volcano.

June 24, 2010: Three years after its flyby encounter with Jupiter, New Horizons takes a look back. In this image, the spacecraft is about 1.5-billion miles away from Jupiter.

June 23, 2015: Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, are pictured between June 23-29. New Horizons traveled 4 million miles over those six days.

July 8, 2015: New Horizons steadily approaches Pluto and Charon. The spacecraft was about 3.7-million miles away when it snapped this image.

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