NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Spots Mysterious Mountain on Ceres

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 - 1:54PM
Space
Astronomy
Solar System
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 - 1:54PM
NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Spots Mysterious Mountain on Ceres
Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, has long been an enigma, mostly as a result of those weird white spots. But now, another strange feature on the asteroid has caught astronomers' eye, as NASA's Dawn spacecraft has captured a pyramid-shaped mountain in unprecedented detail.

The mountain (seen above) is four miles high, and has shiny, reflective sides that NASA believes may be coated in ice (which, incidentally, may also be the explanation for the white spots). NASA had previously observed this mountain from a distance, but couldn't make heads or tails of it, and hoped that closer observations from Dawn could shed some light on its structure and origin. 



The new image was taken in higher resolution than ever before, from approximately 915 miles away. It shows that the mountain has a conical shape with a flat top, almost like a mesa.

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"Dawn is performing flawlessly in this new orbit as it conducts its ambitious exploration, "Dawn's chief engineer and mission director Marc Rayman said in a statement. "The spacecraft's view is now three times as sharp as in its previous mapping orbit, revealing exciting new details of this intriguing dwarf planet."
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Dawn is the first spacecraft to ever visit a dwarf planet, and previously orbited Vesta for 14 months before successfully entering Ceres's orbit in March of this year. Due to its highly stable orbit around the asteroid, it is predicted to perpetually orbit Ceres and become a permanent satellite after its mission is complete.
Science
NASA
Space
Astronomy
Solar System

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