NASA Investigating Alien Life on Ceres With Closest-Ever Dawn Mission
With the mission poised to offer the most detailed look of Ceres yet, NASA is hopeful Dawn will have an opportunity to get an unprecedented view of the dwarf planet's mysterious bright spots, which many scientists believe is potentially evidence of alien life.
During a briefing at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union last week, Dawn deputy principal investigator Carol Raymond spoke about the future approach. "We're going to be using an elliptical orbit to dive closer to the surface than we have before," she said, "down to 30 kilometers altitude."
When the mission extension was announced, the team said that they were looking at ways to get Dawn within 200 km of Ceres, which at the time was already significantly closer than it had ever been (185 km).
Ceres has got the bright stuff! Since arriving in orbit at the dwarf planet in 2015, our @NASA_Dawn spacecraft has revealed more than 300 bright reflective patches on its surface, which may be indicative of an active, evolving world. Get the details: https://t.co/lvvcPL83uw pic.twitter.com/4wx3ezx0dT- NASA (@NASA) December 12, 2017
Closer approaches to Ceres, according to previous reports and statements by NASA, would allow for more accurate measurements by the spacecrafts gamma ray and neutron spectrometer.
NASA would learn more about the Ceres's uppermost layer and would be closer to determining how much ice is on the dwarf planet.
At 30 km, Dawn will be able to take higher resolution images of the planet than have ever been seen, which could tell scientists even more about how the dwarf came to be. "We're aiming to test our ideas about the origin and evolution of Ceres," said Raymond.
"We're still working through finalizing the plan," Carol Raymond added about the approach.
The closer the Dawn spacecraft gets to Ceres, the faster it will burn through hydrazine, and when the hydrazine is gone, the mission will end.
The tentative plan is to start the dip in the spring of next year, with Raymond saying that they will "be able to operate there on the order of three or four months."