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Title: Hubble's 1996 images and maps of Pluto
Two images of Pluto and the maps made from them

Photos courtesy A. Stern (SwRI), M. Buie
(Lowell Observatory), NASA, ESA

The Hubble Space Telescope snapped the top two images of Pluto in 1996. Even Hubble's keen eyesight just barely resolves Pluto. Astronomers then turned the images into maps, showing opposite hemispheres of Pluto. The maps, shown at the bottom, reveal some of the light and dark patches on Pluto’s surface.

Pluto is a challenging telescope target because it is so tiny and so far away. It is only two-thirds the size of Earth's Moon, but 1,200 times farther away. These observations were made when Pluto was 3 billion miles from Earth. They represent our best views of Pluto. The New Horizons spacecraft will give astronomers close-up views of the icy object, revealing more information about this faraway world.