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Tiny Planet Pluto Comes into Focus this Year

This is an artist's conception of what Pluto looks like.  Soon, we will know for sure.  NASA's New Horizon spacecraft will have better pictures of the mysterious orb during a flyby of Pluto this summer. (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

2015 has been dubbed the "Year of Pluto."  NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is nearing the end of its 9-year journey to Pluto, with just over 100 million miles to go before reaching there this July. In the meantime, this Sunday, the craft will begin photographing the mysterious, icy orb once deemed a full-fledged planet in our solar system.  Scientists say the first pictures will reveal little more than bright dots, given New Horizons is still so far away from Pluto. But the images will help NASA gauge the remaining distance and keep the piano-sized spacecraft on track for the historic voyage.  It's NASA's first trip to Pluto. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in January 2006, New Horizons awoke from hibernation last month. It is now billions of miles from Earth.  Now dubbed a "dwarf planet" by scientists, Pluto was discovered by a young Kansan who grew up on a central Kansas farm near Burdett.  Clyde Tombaugh was just 24-years-old when he discovered Pluto in 1930, while working for the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Just under an ounce of Tombaugh's cremated remains are on board the New Horizons spacecraft.  Now that's just cool!

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