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Pluto may have spots the size of Missouri

Pluto and Charon in orbit

Pluto and Charon show off two of their sides in pictures taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. Each of the dark spots on Pluto (orange, right) is roughly the size of Missouri.

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A chain of enigmatic dark spots mark the surface of Pluto in recent New Horizons images, taken when the spacecraft was about 22 million kilometers from the dwarf planet. Each splotch is about 500 kilometers across and covers roughly the same area as the state of Missouri.

The pictures, taken on June 25 and 27, show two faces of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, in true color; this is how the duo would appear to a human along for the ride. The original images, taken by the spacecraft’s zoom lens, are in black-and-white; the color comes from recent low-resolution images taken by the probe’s wide-field camera.

For more on the flyby, read SN's feature, "Rendezvous with Pluto."

Molecular Evolution,, Animals

Genetic tweak hints at why mammoths loved the cold

By Tina Hesman Saey 12:00pm, July 2, 2015
An altered temperature sensor helped mammoths adapt to the cold.
Animals,, Evolution

Flatworm can self-fertilize by stabbing itself in the head

By Susan Milius 3:11pm, July 1, 2015
Hermaphroditic flatworms with hypodermic-style mating get sharp with themselves.
Health

Clot-snatching stroke treatment gets the green light

By Ashley Yeager 4:42pm, June 30, 2015
Snatching blood clots from the brain with a wire mesh stent is a new stroke treatment that is now supported in the United States.
Neuroscience

Old fruit flies’ swagger restored with brain chemical dopamine

By Laura Sanders 2:34pm, June 30, 2015
Replenishing the chemical communicator dopamine to a handful of nerve cells makes old flies feel frisky again.
Earth,, Technology

Leap second helps us with the reality of time

By Christopher Crockett 6:00am, June 30, 2015
A leap second will be inserted at the end of the day on June 30.
Neuroscience

Pain may come in his and hers

By Laura Sanders 11:59am, June 29, 2015
Males and females rely on different kinds of cells to carry pain signals, a mouse study suggests.
Astronomy

Advice to a baby planet: Avoid black holes

By Christopher Crockett 11:00am, June 26, 2015
A dust cloud looping around the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole might have once been an infant planet.
Plants,, Health

Poppy yields the final secret to making morphine

By Bethany Brookshire 4:08pm, June 25, 2015
Scientists have successfully transplanted most of the morphine synthesis pathway from poppies to yeast. Now the final step is ready to be put in place.

Tiny tweaks helped flu strains thwart 2014-2015 vaccine

By Meghan Rosen 12:01pm, June 25, 2015
Changes to the flu strains circulating around the Northern Hemisphere explain why last year’s flu vaccine didn’t work so well.
Planetary Science

Rosetta mission extended until September 2016

By Christopher Crockett 4:25pm, June 23, 2015
The Rosetta spacecraft will explore comet 67P through September 2016 and then may go to sleep on the comet’s surface.
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