Dawn delivers its closest-ever view of Ceres
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has sent homethe first images from its best-ever viewpoint around the dwarfplanet Ceres, orbiting at an altitude of around 240 miles (385 km).The views include a chain of craters across the body's scarredsurface, and two 3D snaps, viewable through red-blue glasses.
Dawn has already taught us a hugeamount about Ceres. We've seen 3D views of features on the dwarf planet's surface, color maps of its geological features, and justrecently, scientists have worked to probe the mysteries of its mysterious bright spots. Now, the spacecraft is closer to the body thanever before, and has started returning some new, breathtakingimagery.
The footage, captured on December 10 ata resolution of 120 ft (35 m) per pixel, focuses on the SouthernHemisphere and includes a series of craters called the GerberCatena, located just west of a much larger crater known as Urvara. Suchtroughs are common on the body, which has an average diameter of just584 miles (940 km). While many of the grooves across the dwarf planet's surface are attributed to impacts, certain features appear to be tectonic in nature – the product of internal stresses that caused the body's crust to break.
The shots were taken by Dawn's backupframing camera, forming part of the instrument's testing. Its twin –the spacecraft's primary framing camera – was also tested onDecember 16. Both instruments appear to be working perfectly.
With the spacecraft now in its finalorbit around Ceres, its other instruments – including a visibleand infrared mapping spectrometer and a gamma ray and neutrondetector – have now begun to make observations. The instruments willwork to identify minerals and elements on the surface of the body.
"As we take the highest-resolutiondata ever from Ceres, we will continue to examine our hypotheses anduncover even more surprises about this mysterious world," saidprinciple investigator of the Dawn mission, Chris Russell.