Mars may be enjoying the spotlight this weekend thanks to Matt Damon's "The Martian," but it's probably safe to say that the past few months have belonged squarely to Pluto. The dwarf-planet, long considered a minor player in our solar system, became an overnight celebrity in July after NASA's New Horizons spacecraft pulled off a historic rendezvous.
The images and data sent back since have shown an alien world unlike anything we could have imagined. Instead of a barren, dead planet, Pluto seems very much geologically alive - complete with familiar terrain such as mountains, glaciers, and plains.
Images like this one are only the beginning. Because of the great distance between New Horizons and Earth, it will take another 16 months before all of the data captured by its historic flyby will be in NASA's hands.
In the meantime, the lead scientist behind the New Horizons mission, Alan Stern, is prepping a book about the behind-the-scenes obstacles and drama surrounding humanity's first mission to Pluto. According to the AP, publisher Picador will release "Chasing New Horizons: Inside Humankind's First Mission to Pluto" in 2017; with Stern co-writing the piece with planetary scientist and author David Grinspoon.
While the book will offer tremendous insights into how the mission came together, it likely will also reveal just how New Horizons is transforming scientists' perceptions of Pluto.
"I am surprised that Pluto is still active today after 4.5 billion years," Stern recently told New York City News. "Much larger worlds like Earth’s Moon are essentially completely dead, and we don’t understand how small planet like this can still be active after such long time".