Pluto and its large moon Charon are depicted in this artist's concept. The distant Sun appears as a very bright star. Prepared for NASA by Norman W. Lee and Stephen Paul Meszaros.Flickr

NASA's New Horizons probe has helped get some fresh images of dwarf planet Pluto. The new pictures were released on 4 February, the 109th birth anniversary of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh.

This mission of NASA is expected to have its closest encounter with Pluto in July. The images show the tiny planet and its largest moon Charon.

Tombaugh, an American astronomer, discovered the icy planet in 1930.

"This is our birthday tribute to Professor Tombaugh and the Tombaugh family, in honor of his discovery and life achievements — which truly became a harbinger of 21st century planetary astronomy," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

"These images of Pluto, clearly brighter and closer than those New Horizons took last July from twice as far away, represent our first steps at turning the pinpoint of light Clyde saw in the telescopes at Lowell Observatory 85 years ago, into a planet before the eyes of the world this summer," the official website of NASA mission reports.

The pictures were taken by the space probe between 25 and 27 January. They were captured by the New Horizons probe's high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).

The pictures were taken from a distance of 200 million km and Pluto and its moon appear as white blobs in the images. However, in May, the probe will be able to get pictures of the planet from a distance of 5bn km from Earth.

Meanwhile, Clyde's daughter Annette Tombaugh said: "My dad would be thrilled with New Horizons. To actually see the planet that he had discovered, and find out more about it -- to get to see the moons of Pluto -- he would have been astounded."

See the new image of the dwarf planet in the tweet below:

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