Below, are the best images we humans have of the dwarf planet Pluto.
Even the Hubble Space Telescope can only make out the blurry basic features of the planet. These images were taken by Hubble from 2003 to 2003. (NASA)
At best, we can describe it as a reddish, relatively small rocky smudgy thing (with points!). And while we know the basics of the planet's size and shape, we really don't know what the thing looks like ... yet. As a NASA "ScienceCast" video on YouTube explains (embedded below), "No one knows what to expect when the alien landscape comes into focus. There could be icy geysers, towering mountains, deep valleys, and even planetary rings."
Well, mark your calendars: A year from now—the morning of July 14, 2015, to be exact—NASA should be able to obtain a clear, up-close image of the former 9th planet. That's when the New Horizons spacecraft will make its long-awaited pass of the planet. "It's Bastille Day," NASA planetary scientist Alan Stern told NPR, dovetailing planetary and historical nerdiness. "To celebrate, we're storming the gates of Pluto.
New Horizons launched in 2006 with a record-breaking velocity of 36,373 mph to embark on a 4.6 billion-mile journey to Pluto. For some perspective, it took New Horizons one year to arrive at Jupiter, and seven more to get where it is today, a year's journey away from Pluto.