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Yesterday, humanity took a great stride away from our Pale Blue Dot and made a bold leap towards the stars. For many, like NASA's Alan Stern, it was a moment that had been nearly a lifetime in the making. After journeying some 3 billion miles (4.8 billion km), New Horizons finally soared past Pluto, the tiny dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system.

It was a trip that began some 25 years ago, when Stern first called for a journey to Pluto. And, after a number of false starts, and nearly 10 years of flying about our solar system, today, we are finally ready to reap the benefits, getting a close-up view of this small world for the first time in history.

First high resolution image of Pluto. Image via NASA

But why are these images only being unveiled today? Why didn't we get to see them yesterday—the day of the actual encounter?

Fear not. NASA isn't holding out on us. Rather, because Pluto is so far away from Earth, it takes quite a long time for our communication signals to travel back a forth. In fact, each journey takes nearly four-and-a-half hours (and that’s just traveling one way).

Ultimately, because of this time delay, we didn’t get the images of New Horizons' flyby yesterday. NASA had to wait hours just to start receiving the information, and then it still had to go through processing. This means that the unveiling comes, not on the day of the close encounter, but the day after—Today.

Slooh will be hosting live video coverage. The broadcast will include views of Pluto from some of our telescopes in the Canary Islands, and a look at the very first close up images of the surface of the dwarf planet. The coverage will also include commentary from a number of scientists. For example, Slooh Astronomer Will Gater will be joined by members of New Horizons science team to discuss what discoveries the spacecraft had already unveiled and what new findings may yet come to light.

"Over the past few months Pluto has been looming ever closer in the images from NASA’s New Horizons probe,” says Gater. “We’ve watched as tantalizing new features emerge into view on this enigmatic world, but now’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: our first fly-by of the dwarf planet and a chance to explore and study an object that’s fascinated planetary scientists ever since its discovery."

If you want to join the fun, you can use #SloohNewHorizons to ask questions about the mission, the images, and Pluto.

Watch: First Images of Pluto Unveiled

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