NASA, in an apparent attempt to reach younger would-be astronomers, released the first surface images of Pluto on Instagram just before releasing them to the public on NASA.gov. With 3.6 million followers, NASA is already as popular on Instragram as a number of big celebrities. That popularity will only continue to grow, though, as the space agency completed its 3 billion mile journey Tuesday.

The photo, which earned over 100,000 likes in less than an hour, is the culmination of a nine-year journey to the icy body located more than 3 billion miles away from Earth. The picture was posted on Instagram at 7:49 a.m. EDT, immediately going viral before officially being released to NASA.gov and the rest of the media at 8:00 a.m. EDT.

 

 

“We made an editorial decision to give the world a sneak peek of the image on Instagram,” NASA social media manager John Yembrick told Wired. “We feel it's important to engage new audiences.”

NASA also used the Twitter account @NASANewHorizons to live-tweet the agency's first trip to Pluto using the hashtag #PlutoFlyBy https://twitter.com/hashtag/PlutoFlyby?src=hash. That hashtag yielded a flurry of insight from opther experts, both affiliated with NASA or not.