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NASA Zooms In On Pluto, For Closest Views Yet

In an image taken just before Tuesday's flyby, Pluto's surface seems to have a heart-shaped pattern on its surface. NASA says the planet "sent a love note back to Earth."
NASA
In an image taken just before Tuesday's flyby, Pluto's surface seems to have a heart-shaped pattern on its surface. NASA says the planet "sent a love note back to Earth."

New images of Pluto have arrived from a NASA space probe, and they're already allowing scientists to update what we know about the dwarf planet – such as its size. NASA's New Horizons probe has traveled more than 3 billion miles to send photos and data about Pluto back to Earth.

NASA is set to release more images and data gleaned from New Horizon's closest approach to Pluto, which was achieved just before 8 a.m. ET Tuesday. We'll be updating this post with news from the space agency, which is still compiling data that was sent back to Earth.

A key revelation that has already come out about Pluto concerns its size — NASA says its diameter is 1,473 miles, or 2,370 kilometers.

New Horizons was only 8,150 miles away from Pluto this morning, allowing scientists to take their closest look at the small planet whose unusual characteristics have sparked a debate among scientists about how to categorize it because of its small size.

"Pluto also orbits at a funny angle compared to the other planets," as NPR's Geoff Brumfiels has reported. "And there are a whole lot of other Pluto-like things cluttering up the outer reaches of the solar system."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.