Space

Dawn space probe gets best look yet at Ceres

Dawn space probe gets best loo...
Zoomed-in image of Ceres taken on Dec. 1, 2014 with the Dawn spacecraft's framing camera (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Zoomed-in image of Ceres taken on Dec. 1, 2014 with the Dawn spacecraft's framing camera (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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Comparison of Ceres, the Moon, and Earth (Image: NASA)
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Comparison of Ceres, the Moon, and Earth (Image: NASA)
Ceres and Vesta with sizes (Image: NASA/HST)
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Ceres and Vesta with sizes (Image: NASA/HST)
Ceres as seen from the Hubble telescope (image: Keck Observatory/C. Dumas/NASA-JPL)
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Ceres as seen from the Hubble telescope (image: Keck Observatory/C. Dumas/NASA-JPL)
Comparison of Ceres & Vesta (Image: NASA/ESA/STScI)
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Comparison of Ceres & Vesta (Image: NASA/ESA/STScI)
Artist's concept of Dawn during its flyby of Mars (Image: NASA)
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Artist's concept of Dawn during its flyby of Mars (Image: NASA)
Artist's concept of Dawn (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Artist's concept of Dawn (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Artist's concept of Dawn leaving Earth (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Artist's concept of Dawn leaving Earth (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Artist's concept of Dawn in the asteroid belt (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Artist's concept of Dawn in the asteroid belt (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Dawn's ion thruster (Image: NASA/JPL)
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Dawn's ion thruster (Image: NASA/JPL)
Artist's concept of Dawn firing its thruster (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Artist's concept of Dawn firing its thruster (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Unmagnified view of Ceres taken by Dawn on Dec. 1, 2014 (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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Unmagnified view of Ceres taken by Dawn on Dec. 1, 2014 (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
A cropped, magnified view of Ceres (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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A cropped, magnified view of Ceres (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Zoomed-in image of Ceres taken on Dec. 1, 2014 with the Dawn spacecraft's framing camera (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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Zoomed-in image of Ceres taken on Dec. 1, 2014 with the Dawn spacecraft's framing camera (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
View gallery - 13 images

The Dawn spacecraft has lifted the veil on another corner of the Solar System by taking its best image yet of the dwarf planet Ceres. The nine-pixel-wide image was taken from a distance of 740,000 mi (1.2 million km) from Ceres as part of the final calibration of Dawn's science camera as the unmanned probe approaches the 590 mi (950 km) wide planetoid, which it will rendezvous with and orbit in March of next year.

At its current distance from Dawn, Ceres is as bright as Venus as seen from Earth. Until now, the best images of Ceres came from the Hubble Space Telescope, but NASA says that as Dawn draws closer to its rendezvous, much higher resolution images will be sent back.

Dawn was launched on September 27, 2007 atop a Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. After making a flyby of Mars on February 4, 2009 in a slingshot maneuver, it went into orbit around the protoplanet Vesta on July 16, 2011, where it carried out a 14-month survey of the surface.

Artist's concept of Dawn (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Artist's concept of Dawn (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The 1,240 kg (2,730 lb) spacecraft then used its ion thruster to send it on a three and a half year passage to Ceres. When it arrives in March 2015, it will mark the first visit to a dwarf planet by any spacecraft. In addition, by visiting Vesta and Ceres, Dawn will have visited the two most massive objects in the asteroid belt, with Ceres the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and making up a third of the mass of the entire belt.

"Now, finally, we have a spacecraft on the verge of unveiling this mysterious, alien world," says Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director of the Dawn mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Soon it will reveal myriad secrets Ceres has held since the dawn of the solar system,"

Dawn begins its final approach to Ceres on December 26.

Source: NASA

View gallery - 13 images
1 comment
Frostshoreline
Recently I was in touch with the DAWN team and they say that after mid Jan 2015 they will achieve greater than Hubble images as they are currently flying at a distance of 1.15 million kilometres from the dwarf planet and the wide field camera has a magnification of 150mm. Of course by March DAWN will make orbital procedures and imagery will be stunning at close range.
In recent years I have been putting forward some scenarios of what 1Ceres may be like.
http://cereriansentinel.blogspot.com.au/