Astronomy feat of Pluto fly-by captivates metro Detroit science fans

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft made a successful fly-by of Pluto, capturing some amazing images.

At the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, the pictures are what everyone is talking about.  

After traveling three billion miles over 9.5 years, the New Horizon mission was complete Tuesday morning, making its closet approach to Pluto.

Pictures released of the flyby amazed many, including Leah Gambino, who was at a display at Cranbrook's Institute of Science  

"I thought it was pretty cool because all the previous pictures we have are blurry," she said. "We couldn't really see the surface of the planet at all and now we can." 

Michael Narlock is the Head of Astronomy at Cranbrook Institute of Science. 

"If nothing else it's an engineering miracle," Narlock said.

He says this mission can help determine if Pluto is large enough to reclaim its status of being called a planet.

"It will help settle once and for all if Pluto should be called a major plant like Saturn, Earth and Mars," he said. "Or is it one of the smaller bodies in our solar system." 

Narlock says the mission could also help scientists understand Pluto's composition and settle theories on how it was formed. 

"One of them is that Pluto and other smaller bodies is smaller remnants from some of the bigger planets," he said.

This trip to Pluto means the United States is now the only nation to visit every single planet in the solar system.

Pluto was the ninth stop on this mission when the New Horizons spacecraft left Earth in 2006.

"The spacecraft getting there is very much like celebrating arriving on vacation and pulling into parking lot at Disney Land," Narlock said. "Nothing has happened yet really, now is when the fun is about to begin