By Eddie LeClair, CBS Local

TAMPA (CBS Tampa) – As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft approaches Pluto, humanity seems to be getting some love back from the dwarf planet.

As if to say, “It’s OK that you demoted me from full planet status,” the closest image yet taken of the celestial body appears to show a Valentine heart.

The image was taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 7, when the spacecraft was just under 5 million miles from Pluto.

The flyby sequence of science observations will make its closest approach on July 14, and astronomers are already excited about what they may find.

“The next time we see this part of Pluto at closest approach, a portion of this region will be imaged at about 500 times better resolution than we see today,” said Jeff Moore, Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team leader of NASA’s Ames Research Center. “It will be incredible!”

This side of Pluto is dominated by three large regions, says NASA: the most prominent is a dark feature near the equator, which astronomers have dubbed “the whale,” a polar region of intermediate brightness.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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