Picture This

Take a colourful virtual flight over dwarf planet Ceres

29 January 2016 Astronomy Now

A new animation showing a simulated flight over the surface of dwarf planet Ceres using images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in its high-altitude mapping orbit has been produced by members of Dawn’s framing camera team at the German Aerospace Center, DLR. The movie emphasises the most prominent craters, such as Occator, and the tall, conical mountain Ahuna Mons.

Top Stories 2015

No. 6 Our first up close look at Ceres

2 January 2016 Keith Cooper

In spring 2015 NASA’s Dawn mission, coming off the back of exploring the asteroid Vesta, entered into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres and immediately found a puzzle for the space probe to unpick.

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Dawn gets the lowdown on dwarf planet Ceres

27 December 2015 Astronomy Now

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.

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New clues to dwarf planet Ceres’ bright spots and origins

9 December 2015 Astronomy Now

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.

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Ceres’ bright spots seen in striking new detail

9 September 2015 Astronomy Now

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.

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Ceres’ mysterious bright spots and 4-mile-tall pyramidal mountain in 3-D

8 August 2015 Astronomy Now

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.

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New names and insights at dwarf planet Ceres

29 July 2015 Astronomy Now

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.