After the euphoria of NASA’s space probe sending its first high-res images of Pluto, elated scientists are now expecting more “dazzling” revelations from the dwarf planet. "It's going to be gorgeous data," said Glen Fountain, New Horizons' project manager. "Dazzle us. It will dazzle us. We've seen just a hint of that data and there is more to come." Metro speaks to Dr. Jane Greaves, professor at School of Physics and Astronomy at University of St Andrews and expert on Pluto, on what more we can expect from the mission. 

Is it a historic day for space exploration?
This is the most distant world to date that humanity has got a close up view of. It’s 50 years since the first views of the landscape of Mars, and now were seeing a miniature world, much further, much colder, and with a swarm of moons. The spacecraft has gone faster than anything else we've built, using technology from different countries, with contributors from students to retirees.
A historic day for humanity, too?

I think it's a triumph for collaboration between people - you can see this just from the worldwide excitement and congratulations coming in over social media. I think people are excited because this unprecedented voyage has worked, and also because we're seeing things from day to day that are very unexpected. There's also a surprising empathy, for a world that seems lonely in the dark. It let's us think about origins and just appreciate that we're here, I think.
What’s inside the New Horizons probe?

A set of instruments and a power source - the spacecraft is too far from the Sun to benefit from solar power. There instruments are small, sophisticated and packed in... They take images as you'd expect, but also sample gas in the atmosphere, electrified and solid particles, and the surface temperature.
What are your expectations?

I'm hoping we'll see how the dwarf planet and its moons were formed. The different colours and terrains seem to support an origin in a giant cosmic collision, after which diverse pieces fell back together under gravity. Since this is the idea for why we have the Earth-Moon pair, seeing this analogue could enlighten our own history, especially how close both systems came to catastrophe. I'm also excited to see how the atmosphere evolved and survives, in the context of climate science.
The mission to Pluto started in 2006… Were these years worth it?

Oh, definitely! It was visionary to send a spacecraft so far, and the patient wait has probably really helped. Image processing techniques and computer speed have improved so much that we can really dig out the science results now. Also the public can take part, with the rise and speed of citizen science.
Some experts say Pluto could be declassified as a dwarf planet, and reinstated as a planet of the Solar System…

I suspect this will stay the same, now we know other worlds exist in the cold outer regions of the solar system. The term isn't insulting though, it's just appropriate to this special class of object, which link small icy comets and large full blown planets.
What’s next?

New Horizons will be nudged onto a different flight path, to go view a much tinier world. How this looks, which could be very different, could confirm or overthrow our current ideas about planet-building.