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.
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.
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.