After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world. These images were taken on April 10th from a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometres), and they represent the highest-resolution views of Ceres to date.
Subsequent images of Ceres will show surface features at increasingly better resolution.
Dawn arrived at Ceres on March 6th, marking the first time a spacecraft has orbited a dwarf planet. Previously, the spacecraft explored giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months from 2011 to 2012. Dawn has the distinction of being the only spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestrial targets.
Ceres, with an average diameter of about 590 miles (950 kilometres), is the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn has been using its ion propulsion system to manoeuvre to its first science orbit at Ceres, which it will reach on April 23rd. The spacecraft will remain at a distance of 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometres) from the dwarf planet until May 9th. Afterward, it will make its way to lower orbits.