NASA has released a video of Ceres that takes viewers on a tour across the surface of the rocky planet. The video is based on observations made by the agency's Dawn spacecraft over the course of its first mapping orbit at a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 km) as well as more recent navigational images taken from 3,200 miles (5,100 km).
"We used a three-dimensional terrain model that we had produced based on the images acquired so far," states Dawn team member Ralf Jaumann of the German Aerospace Center. "They will become increasingly detailed as the mission progresses, with each additional orbit bringing us closer to the surface."
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Dawn made orbit around Ceres on March 6 following intense speculation as to the nature of a series of white spots that had been detected on the surface of the dwarf planet during the approach. Currently, the reason for the bright spots has not been determined, leading NASA to host a public vote allowing participants to guess between salt deposits, ice, rock, geysers, and even the presence of volcanoes as the culprit for the unusual features.
To som,e the video may seem short, but you have to take a step back and appreciate what it represents. Ceres was the first object to be discovered in the asteroid belt, and has been known to us since Sicilian astronomer Father Giuseppe Piazzi observed the dwarf planet back in 1801. Yet, prior to Jan. 25. of this year, the most detailed image we had of the rocky body was a tiny blurry sphere captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
As Dawn drew ever nearer to Ceres, we began to see it in greater detail until the new images surpassed those of the legendary space telescope. Just a few months later, Dawn has observed the surface of the dwarf planet to the extent that we can animate a detailed map of the surface. With this in mind, it's not just a video, it's a testament to mankind's limitless curiosity and potential.
NASA's tour of Ceres can be seen in the video below..