But it's time to say goodbye to the "dark side" of Pluto -- the side that won't be facing the camera when New Horizons whizzes past. According to NASA, this face won't be captured again during the mission. Since New Horizons took years of planning and required a nine-year journey through space, it's safe to say we won't get a closer look for another few decades.
The dark side is where four mysterious spots live. Pluto seems to have a dark region around its entire equator, with the other face of the planet featuring a dark whale-shaped smear. The four dots are quite uniform in size and spacing, and scientists estimate that they're each 300 miles across.
But in the latest, clearest image, we can see that the dots aren't actually regularly shaped little circles.
It may be our last good look at the spots, but we could still learn more about them: NASA is waiting for the transmission of the last batch of color data taken for the dark side of Pluto, which will allow them to create a more nuanced, dynamic image to study.
As we say goodbye to the dark side of Pluto, it's time to say hello to the encounter side:
The image above, taken on July 9, show the face we'll see on July 14. This photo was taken from 3.3 million miles away, with a resolution of 17 miles per pixel. On Sunday, the New Horizons Twitter account reported that the spacecraft, at 1.3 million miles from the dwarf planet, now had a resolution of seven miles per pixel. On July 14, the spacecraft will pass just 7,800 miles from Pluto.
But even at that relatively low resolution, we're starting to see some fascinating features. The mission team was pretty excited to get a look at the picture, which revealed some of the first hints of complex geology on the planet:
“We’re close enough now that we’re just starting to see Pluto’s geology,” New Horizons program scientist Curt Niebur said in a statement. The image shows the face that hosts the "whale" spotted in earlier images, which has an interesting "doughnut" sitting above its tail. Niebur thinks the doughnut will be of particular interest, as doughnuts always are. “It’s a unique transition region with a lot of dynamic processes interacting, which makes it of particular scientific interest.”
There are also some interesting polygonal features and a 1,000 mile long band of complex terrain.
“After nine and a half years in flight, Pluto is well worth the wait," New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern said in a statement.