Danielle Wiener-Bronner
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NASA
NASA

NASA's New Horizons probe is careening towards Pluto and is already sending back photos of mysterious spots on the maybe planet.

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7-1-15_Pluto_Charon_color_hemispheres_annotated_JHUAPL_NASA_SWRI
NASA

The hazy pictures show a number of large spots, evenly spaced along Pluto's would-be equator. In a press release, NASA explained that each spot appears to be roughly 300 miles across, and Missouri-sized in terms of surface area.

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The agency said that "scientists have yet to see anything quite like the dark spots," adding that they are distinctive for being so evenly space and consistently sized.

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern said in a statement that the spots are "a real puzzle." He added, "Also puzzling is the longstanding and dramatic difference in the colors and appearance of Pluto compared to its darker and grayer moon Charon."

Pluto and Charon
NASA

The images also reveal that Pluto has two distinct faces:

7-1-15_Pluto_Charon_color_hemispheres_unannotated_JHUAPL_NASA_SWRI
NASA
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Scientists also confirmed from New Horizons' data that there is methane on Pluto.

Mike Brown, Stern's opponent in a should-Pluto-be-a-planet-war (Stern says yes, Brown says no) has some thoughts on these recent discoveries—which he doesn't find to be the least bit surprising:

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Maybe he can help us solve this pyramid mystery next.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.

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