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85 years ago, American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered a distant planet in our Solar System – the tiny world of Pluto. In less than an hour’s time, his ashes will whiz past the now ‘minor planet’ at almost 50,000km/hr, aboard the New Horizons space probe.

If you’d like to track the probe as it makes its fly-by, go download NASA’s ‘Eyes on Pluto’ app, which gives you a simulated real-time telemetry and view of the progress of the mission. Note though that as Pluto is around 4.5 light hours from Earth, no actual signals (including images) from the probe will be available until that time has elapsed.

Though one person did manage to give us a decent image of Pluto, some 36 years in advance. The image at the top of this post was created by astronomical artist Don Dixon in 1979, and it bears a striking resemblance to the images of Pluto received so far:

Pluto painting by Don Dixon compared to New Horizons photo

Before the Pluto fly-by conspiracies begin though, Dixon has pointed out that his image was based on some fairly safe guesses:

I’d like to claim prophetic powers, but the painting was guided by the reasonable assumption that Pluto likely has a periodically active atmosphere that distributes powdery exotic frosts into lowland areas. The reddish color of the higher features is caused by tholins – hydrocarbons common in the outer solar system. The partial circular arcs would be caused by flooding of craters by slushy exotic ices. Pluto is apparently more orange than I painted it, however; I assumed the exotic ices would push colors more into the whites and grays.

Link: Pluto Predicted

Link: NASA’s New Horizons Missio