Citizens of Earth their Solar System’s most prominent “dwarf planet”

At the beginning of July, the United States became the first country to reach Pluto — and the first country to explore the entire classical solar system: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

NASA’s New Horizons interplanetary probe has been making its way to Pluto since January 19, 2006, and has been providing the world with the sharpest photos ever seen of our Solar System‘s most prominent “dwarf planet.” On the 14th of July, it made its closest approach to Pluto yet — about 8,000 miles — at around 07:49:57 EDT.

Here’s the photo they took — which, despite travelling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), took four and a half hours to reach us here on Earth as it crossed the 3 billion miles between here and Pluto:

The closest photo we've taken of Pluto.

Tyson - Apollo 40th anniversary 2009.jpg

Neil deGrasse Tyson (°1958) American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator, hosting the 40th anniversary celebration of Apollo 11 at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, July 2009

That we were able to get so close to Pluto today is a feat whose probability scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson likened to “a hole-in-one on a two-mile golf shot.” He’s right.

Every once in a while, a photo comes along that has the ability to shift not just how we see our place in the universe, but how we see ourselves — not just as Americans, but as citizens of Earth.

This is one of those photos, and I hope you’ll share it with someone today.

Around 8:00 a.m. Eastern 15 July , New Horizons passed within 8,000 miles of Pluto — capturing even better images of the icy dwarf planet than those made earlier in the probe’s approach.

Here is one of those remarkable, newly transmitted images:

This is the closest we've ever been to Pluto.

It’s been a pretty incredible couple of days.

To top it off, say congratulations to the New Horizons team — and then forward this message to a friend who’s been tracking the mission.

More soon —

John

Dr. John P. Holdren
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
The White House
@whitehouseostp

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