Are you tired of humankind's slow-but-steady march towards finally staring Pluto in the face? No? Good. Here's the latest superlative animation from NASA's New Horizons, the spacecraft traveling over 36,000 mph in the direction of our solar system's most famous dwarf planet.

The new images, taken from 30 million miles away, are the highest resolution shots ever seen. We can see lots of variation in Pluto's surface markings. In fact, there's a blotch of darkness around the equator that, when seen in an animation of the dwarf planet's rotation, makes the body appear bumpy and irregular. That's just an optical illusion, because we know from previously collected data that Pluto is almost perfectly spherical (unlike its smaller moons).

The pictures also show off the incredible difference in reflectivity between Pluto and its largest moon Charon. The two may be locked together -- almost like binary planets -- but they're not the same. Charon is a bright object, but Pluto is around as bright and reflective as ice is.

Here's an unprocessed shot, without zoom, where the difference is just as pronounced:

New Horizons will give us our first ever encounter with Pluto in mid-July, making its closest pass with the planet on July 14. That's after nearly a decade (and billions of miles) of travel. When New Horizons left Earth in 2006, Pluto was still considered a regular planet. But that same year, the International Astronomical Union decided to formally define "planet" in a way that kicked Pluto to the curb. You can't blame them. We were discovering a seemingly endless number of objects in the solar system -- including Pluto's largest moon -- that seemed just about as planetary as Pluto is.

And it's not as much as a bummer as you might think: Pluto's reclassification as a dwarf planet didn't make New Horizons a less exciting mission. In fact, now we can think of Pluto as more than just an uncharted planet waiting for exploration. It's an uncharted kind of planet with new quirks for us to discover.

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