NASA's Dawn Mission Captures New Image of Dwarf Planet Ceres
NASA’s Dawn mission, having performed remarkably at the asteroid Vesta, is homing in on Ceres. The spacecraft’s ion engines will bring it to a capture orbit around this 590 mile diameter dwarf planet on March 6th, 2015 – at a distance some 2.5 times further from the Sun than the Earth.
NASA's Dawn mission, having performed remarkably at the asteroid Vesta, is homing in on Ceres. The spacecraft's ion engines will bring it to a capture orbit around this 590 mile diameter dwarf planet on March 6th, 2015 - at a distance some 2.5 times further from the Sun than the Earth.
Now at a separation of some 238,000 miles, Dawn is able to snap images of Ceres at close to the resolution of the best pre-existing pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope. Here it has captured part of the 9-hour 'day' on Ceres - shown in time-lapse.
Dawn's latest, and best, images of Ceres (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Comparing this to Hubble's similar time-lapse compiled from December 2003- January 2004 data it's possible to see what are likely some of the same bright and dark features in the Dawn images. Ceres is an intriguing object, coated in frozen water and minerals it may even harbor an interior ocean.
Hubble's view of Ceres (NASA/ESA)
Whatever Dawn discovers when it arrives, the odds are good that we're going to get some surprises.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Caleb A. Scharf is director of astrobiology at Columbia University. He is author and co-author of more than 100 scientific research articles in astronomy and astrophysics. His work has been featured in publications such as New Scientist, Scientific American, Science News, Cosmos Magazine, Physics Today and National Geographic. For many years he wrote the Life, Unbounded blog for Scientific American. Follow Caleb A. Scharf on Twitter