See Pluto as a glowing crescent in this stunning high-res photo

NASA just released a full crescent photo of the dwarf planet Pluto taken from 11,000 miles away, and it’s stunning:

Pluto crescentNASAPluto in all its glory.

The image was taken in July, right after the New Horizons spacecraft hurtled past Pluto at 30,000 mph. The spacecraft swiveled around to take this stunning photo of the tiny planet back-lit by the distant sun.

We saw a small sliver of Pluto’s crescent in September, but the New Horizons team just finished processing more images and stitching them together into this semi-complete, high-resolution view.

You can see the haze of Pluto’s thin atmosphere circling the planet and, in the top of the sunlit patch on the right side, the contours of the dwarf planet’s mountain range — giant, icy peaks that compare in height to the Rocky Mountains here on Earth.

In the middle of the bright patch, you can see part of the planet’s smooth plain, called Sputnik Planum, and its rugged glaciers (bottom right).

We’re still waiting for more data from New Horizons to travel more than 4.5 billion miles back to Earth. Downloading all the data will take several more months since the spacecraft is so far away and its power is so limited.

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