NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Captures New Images of Mysterious Dwarf Planet Ceres
NASA's Dawn spacecraft is closing in on its goal of reaching Ceres, and in the process of doing so, it has just produced some of the clearest images ever taken of the dwarf planet which is located in our solar system's high traffic asteroid belt. The images are already causing a great deal of excitement at Dawn's mission HQ over at NASA's JPL in Pasadena, California.
"We know so much about the solar system and yet so little about dwarf planet Ceres. Now, Dawn is ready to change that," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's Chief Engineer and Mission Director.
When it was launched back in 2007, Dawn was given the mission of unlocking the secrets behind the early formation of some of our asteroid belt's most prominent bodies. After orbiting dwarf planet Vesta, the second largest body in the asteroid belt, Dawn set its sights for Ceres and it is now just 230,000 miles away from its objective. This closing in proximity has allowed the spacecraft to observe Ceres in unprecedented detail, giving researchers a chance to study characteristics of the dwarf planet's surface. "The team is very excited to examine the surface of Ceres in never-before-seen detail," said Chris Russell, Principal Investigator on the Dawn team. "We look forward to the surprises this mysterious world may bring.". Indeed, if Dawn's exploits around Vesta are anything to go by, we could be in line to get very familiar with Ceres. After its time orbiting Vesta, Dawn left with more than 30,000 images of the mysterious object and it's hoped those results can at least be equalled when the spacecraft reaches Ceres.
As it approaches Ceres, Dawn was able to observe the dwarf planet for an hour, which helped to create this animation...
Dawn is expected to reach Ceres next month, but as it draws closer and closer, you can expect more images and animations like these to be posted on NASA's official Dawn Mission page.