High resolution images snapped by NASA's Dawn spacecraft capture four of Ceres' craters in stunning detail. Dawn recently completed transitioning to its third and final mapping orbit, which will see the spacecraft collect its most detailed images and readings to date from a height of roughly 240 miles (385 km) above the dwarf planet's surface.
The new release focuses on geological features present in a selection of Ceres' craters. The image of the Kupalo Crater boasts a resolution of roughly 120 ft (35 m) per pixel, and exhibits what appears to be bright salt deposits on the crater rim. Mission scientists are not yet sure whether these deposits bear any relation to the bright spots present in the now famous Occator Crater.
Also included in the release was the 78 mile (126 km) wide Dantu Crater. Unlike Kupalo, which owes its relatively flat crater floor to a combination of impact melt and subsequent settling of debris, Dantu exhibits a striking network of fissures marring the crater basin. Dawn's science team believes that the fractures could be the result of the crater floor being uplifted and cracking following the initial impact
Other instruments such as Dawn's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer and her gamma ray and neutron detector (GraND), are locked in a race against time to collect as much information as possible in order to characterize Ceres prior to the termination of the probe's primary mission, which is slated to take place on June 30, 2016.
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