On July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will perform a flyby of Pluto, which will be the closest approach ever of the mysterious dwarf planet. The pixelated image you see above was received by scientists on July 8, taken when New Horizons was 5 million miles away. It clears up any lingering confusion about the actual color of the small space rock, which is, in fact, a reddish brown, and not the blueish grey we’ve always perceived it to be.
Not only is New Horizons’ flyby a significant milestone for NASA, but simply sending the spacecraft to the dwarf planet is a success, too. New Horizons has traveled more than three billion miles to get there over a 9-year period. It’s actually a wonder the spacecraft is still operational after a freak glitch over the weekend, which sent New Horizons into safe mode.
“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,” said Jeff Moore, team leader of NASA’s Ames Research Center.
For now, the image of Pluto above is our best look yet; notice the elongated dark feature at the equator, which scientists have dubbed “the whale,” along with a heart-shaped bright spot on the right. We’ll have a much better—and sharper—idea of what Pluto’s really like come July 14.