‘Something wonderful’: 1st close-up pictures of Pluto

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This Tuesday, July 14, 2015 image provided by NASA on Wednesday shows a region near Pluto’s equator with a range of mountains captured by the New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Scientists have released the first up-close images ever of Pluto and its big moon Charon. And they say they’re amazed.

The long-awaited images were unveiled Wednesday in Maryland, home to mission operations for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

A zoom-in of Pluto reveals an icy range about as high as the Rockies. To the scientists’ great surprise, there are no impact craters. On Charon, deep troughs and canyons can be seen.

The images were collected as New Horizons swept within 7,700 miles of Pluto on Tuesday, becoming Pluto’s first visitor in its 4.5 billion-year existence.

Scientists didn’t know until Tuesday night – when the spacecraft phoned home – that the encounter was a success.

New Horizons already is 1 million miles beyond the dwarf planet, and 3 billion miles from Earth.

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