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New Horizons fly-by will shed light on Pluto's mysteries

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After more than nine years in transit, NASA's New Horizons probe is finally ready to fly past Pluto and give us the best glimpse ever of the dwarf planet. And if the last few days leading up to the flyby are any indication, we're about to see some pretty wild stuff. 

Up until now, we had no idea what the surface of Pluto actually looks like; the icy dwarf planet is too far away for conventional telescopes to make out clearly. But the increasingly clear pictures New Horizons has been sending back have revealed dark spots and polygonal shapes on Pluto's surface — evidence of complex geology. 

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We'll learn more about what Pluto looks like on Tuesday, when New Horizons passes within 8,000 miles of the planet's surface. The probe is scheduled to take a series of observations which should tell us, among other things, the chemical composition of Pluto's surface and atmosphere. 

New Horizon's mission doesn't end after Pluto; the spacecraft is slated to study one or two other objects in the Kuiper Belt – the region of small asteroid-like objects surrounding the edge of the solar system. 

It will take months for New Horizons to send back all of the data it will gather during its flyby, and the information will probably keep astronomers busy even longer. But if you want to see what the flyby might look like for yourself, you can check out NASA's animated preview app.

This video includes images from NASA, ESA and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute) and NASA / Johns Hopkins University / Southwest Research Institute.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>As New Horizons gets even closer to Pluto and its large moon, Charon, we are able to capture intriguing fine details on...Posted by NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Thursday, July 9, 2015

This latest image from New Horizons allows us to better see the four dark spots on the side of Pluto that always faces...Posted by NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hubble Space Telescope still dazzles 25 years later

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If walking on the moon was one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind, then NASA's achievement with the Hubble Space Telescope should be seen as one huge grin.

On April 24, 1990, space shuttle Discovery launched the telescope into orbit, and NASA scientists and people around the globe have been amazed ever since.

The telescope has tallied more than 1.2 million observations of more than 38,000 celestial objects since its launch, according to the Associated Press.

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It is occasionally pampered with maintenace work, most recently in 2009, the wire service reports.

Hubble's unobstructed view of the universe has provided spectacular images for two and a half decades and is one of the many reasons it is one of NASA's greatest achievements. 

What are some of your fondest Hubble memories?

Pi Day: Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and other stars celebrate 'holiday'

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"Science Guy" Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, William Shatner and other celebrities took to Twitter this weekend to celebrate this year's once-in-a-century Pi Day.

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Click here or scroll down to see what they had to say.

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/pi-day-bill-nye-neil-degrasse-tyson-and-other-star/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/pi-day-bill-nye-neil-degrasse-tyson-and-other-star.js?header=false&amp;border=false"></script>[View the story "Pi Day: Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and other stars celebrate 'holiday'" on Storify]

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