Stop being so cute. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

Pluto almost seems to know we're coming to say hi.

Next Tuesday, the New Horizons Spacecraft will give NASA scientists their first real look at the famous dwarf planet. For a lot of us here on Earth, it will be the first time we've ever seen a hitherto unvisited planet explored -- and for most of us, it's probably also going to be the last time we see that (boo).

[Graphic: 9 years and 3,000,000,000 miles to Pluto]

On Wednesday we're going to see photos of Pluto so detailed that they'll blow our minds. But for now they're just making our hearts go gush.

The above photo, taken earlier this week, was captured five million miles away from Pluto's surface. Next week, the spacecraft will be just 7,750 miles away from the dwarf planet. Like I said, the photos are going to be mind-blowing.

We've been waiting a long time for New Horizon's photos to morph from points of lights to blotches to colorful blotches to...something recognizable as a planet -- and featuring shapes we can recognize, man-in-the-moon style.

[New map of Pluto reveals a ‘whale’ and a ‘doughnut’]

You can spot the "whale" -- a very dark spot seen in a recent color map (shown just below) in the lower left of the new photo. The very prominent heart is actually a bright spot we'd seen before -- the one the whale is diving into, so to speak -- but now the 1,200-mile bright area, which NASA scientists believe may be the result of recently formed frost, has a distinguishing shape of its own.


The elongated dark area, informally known as "the whale," along the equator on the left side of the map is one of the darkest regions visible to New Horizons. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

So for now we've got a dark whale carrying a doughnut on its tail and diving into a white heart, followed by a series of four large, dark, regularly shaped and spaced dots of unknown origin.

Soon these features will be revealed.

“The next time we see this part of Pluto at closest approach, a portion of this region will be imaged at about 500 times better resolution than we see today,” Jeff Moore, Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team leader of NASA’s Ames Research Center, said in a statement. “It will be incredible!”

For the first time, we're about to get a close look at Pluto and its cold, outer region of the solar system. The Post's Joel Achenbach explains NASA's New Horizons mission. (Tom LeGro/The Washington Post)

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