It happened this past week ... our first good look at Pluto.
It was exactly nine-and-a-half years ago today that NASA's New Horizons spacecraft lifted off on its three-billion-mile journey.
Since its chance discovery in 1930, Pluto has always been just a blur in the telescope ... until New Horizons started sending back its close-up pictures.
For the first time we're seeing vast empty plains, which appear to be "only" 100 million years old at the most.
We're seeing mountain ranges some 10,000 feet high.
And smack in the middle of Pluto's Southern hemisphere, we see a huge area shaped like a heart.
Astronomers are already attaching names to some of these newly-found features, including the heart, which they're calling the Tombaugh Regio (Latin for region), after Clyde Tombaugh, the amateur astronomer who first spotted Pluto all those years ago.
- Mountains on Pluto, chasms on Charon thrill scientists (CBS News, 07/15/15)
- Bill Nye discusses newest images of Pluto (CBSN, 07/15/15)
- NASA reveals new pictures of Pluto (CBS News, 07/15/15)
What none of the astronomers are calling Pluto, however, is a PLANET. It was officially, and controversially, downgraded to "dwarf planet" status in 2006.
- Why Pluto got demoted (CBS News, 08/24/06)
- Pluto debate not over yet (09/05/06)
- Demoted from planethood, Pluto makes its case (CBS News, 07/13/15)
- The Twitterverse has spoken: Pluto is a planet (CBS News, 07/15/15)
And in an online appearance with incoming "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert this past week, Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson defended that demotion:
Tyson: "It's not even on my tie, OK? I've got Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. That's it!"
Colbert: "That's the standard. If it's not on a casual accessory owned by Neil deGrasse Tyson, it's not worth knowing. Forget it!"
Still, Neil deGrasse Tyson IS calling Pluto "The King of the Kuiper Belt," a band of strange icy objects at the solar system's far reaches.
And it is deeper into that belt that the New Horizons spacecraft is headed next ...
- Thrilled by Pluto mysteries, scientists await more data (CBS News, 07/14/15)
- More to come from NASA probe sending historic Pluto images (CBS News, 07/16/15)
- GALLERY: Lowly Pluto astonishes