Features on dwarf planet Ceres that piqued the interest of scientists throughout 2015 stand out in exquisite detail in the latest images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which recently reached its lowest-ever altitude at Ceres. Dawn took these images near its current altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers) between 19 and 23 December 2015.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, cruising in its lowest and final orbit at dwarf planet Ceres, has delivered the first images from its best-ever viewpoint. The new images showcase details of the cratered and fractured surface. Dawn is now approximately 240 miles (385 kilometres) above Ceres, which is where it will remain for the rest of its mission.
The surface of Ceres, whose average diameter is 584 miles, is generally dark and similar in brightness to fresh asphalt. But the dwarf planet does possess 130 mysterious bright areas associated with impact craters that new research suggests are salt-rich areas left behind when briny water-ice from a subsurface layer sublimated in the past.
The brightest spots on the dwarf planet Ceres gleam with mystery in new views delivered by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. These closest-yet views of 57-mile-wide impact crater Occator, with a resolution of 450 feet (140 metres) per pixel, give scientists a deeper perspective on these very unusual features — though the precise nature of the spots remains unknown.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has delivered the closest-yet views of Ceres, showing the dwarf planet’s surface in unprecedented detail — including the small world’s mysterious four-mile-high conical mountain. At its current orbital altitude, Dawn takes 11 days to capture and return images of Ceres’ whole surface at a resolution of 450 feet (140 metres) per pixel.
Since its arrival at dwarf planet Ceres on 6 March this year, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been slowly spiralling closer to this enigmatic little world. Mission scientist are nearer finding explanations for the intriguing bright spots in a crater named Occator and why an isolated mountain — as high as any in North America — is sitting in the middle of nowhere.
Colourful new maps of Ceres, based on data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, showcase a diverse topography, with height differences between crater bottoms and mountain peaks as great as 9 miles (15 kilometres). Some of these craters and other features now have official names, inspired by spirits and deities relating to agriculture from a variety of cultures.
A new animated video of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images taken from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft’s first mapping orbit at an altitude of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometres), as well as the most recent navigational images taken from 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometres), provides a unique perspective of this heavily cratered, mysterious world.