Space out on these spectacular new Pluto images from New Horizons

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Sep 11, 2015, 4:55 PM EDT

It's been seven weeks since the first stunning images were released from the New Horizons team at Johns Hopkins University as the intrepid spacecraft has been downlinking technical and instrumental data as it speeds off into the vast Kuiper Belt.  This week started the massive dumping of gigagbytes of photo data captured of the Pluto system during its July 14 flyby, representing more than 90 percent of the spacecraft's digitally stored treasure chest. 

The intensive, exhaustively slow process of downlinking this invaluable data is expected to take nearly a year to complete as scientists sift through the wealth of images for processing.  It appears the wait was well worth it, as this latest series of newly released Pluto pics proves.


“This is what we came for—these images, spectra and other data types that are going to help us understand the origin and the evolution of the Pluto system for the first time,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern.  “And what’s coming is not just the remaining 95 percent of the data that’s still aboard the spacecraft—it’s the best datasets, the highest-resolution images and spectra, the most important atmospheric datasets, and more. It’s a treasure trove. ”


Check out the rest of this fresh wave of sensational close-up insert images of Pluto's icy Sputnik Planum plains and the dark, mysterious Cthulhu Regio from a vantage point soaring 1,100 miles about the dwarf planet's cratered, crackled surface.  Are you impressed with NASA's phoned-home photos deilvered from 3 billion miles away?


(Via NASA/New Horizons)