Pluto no longer just "a point of light"

We're approaching Pluto as we speak. NASA's New Horizons probe is headed towards the most controversial of our planetary siblings, and this week they've shown some of the closest images we've ever bore witness to in the history of humanity. According to New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, "[these images] are just a little bit better than anything that's ever been obtained in history." Details are inbound. Details like a possible polar ice cap at one or both ends of this perpetually cold planetary body.

A news conference was held today in Colorado where quotes Stern as suggesting that "These images that you see in this animation sequence are what I call my 'meet Pluto moment.'"

"Seeing it go from a point of light to an actual place that we're approaching was actually a little bit emotional."

Below you'll see a sequence of images made into a short movie. In it, you'll see a mass turning in the darkness – this is Pluto.

Earth's Hubble telescope captured the previous highest-resolution images of Pluto. In those images, it was also observed that patches of differing brightness could indicate ice.

To get a closer view, NASA launched this $700 million New Horizons mission. Have a peek at the image below to see where this mission has been and where it's headed.

"This is just an appetite-whetter," said Stern.

"We are now on the verge of making real discoveries — the maps and the other data sets that we came to get at the Pluto system."

We'll be getting answers this July, when on the 14th of that month, this mission's craft will get within 7,800 miles (12,500 km) of our best space-faring buddy Pluto.