Dwarf planet Ceres rotates in space in latest Dawn image (Wired UK)

Dwarf planet Ceres as captured by the Dawn spacecraft


Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft has sent back its most dramatic pictures yet of the strange dwarf planet Ceres.

Captured from just 21,000 miles away on 10 April (by comparison Earth’s Moon orbits at roughly eleven times that distance) the sequence of images shows Ceres rotating with just its sunlit north pole illuminated against the darkness of space.

Dawn has now been in orbit around Ceres for more than a month, marking the first time that any space agency has orbited a dwarf planet. It is also the first spacecraft to orbit two different extra-terrestrial objects, having previously explored the asteroid Vesta from 2011 to 2012. Dawn will now use its ion propulsion system to come even closer to the surface, reaching 8,400 files on 9 May before moving even closer through the summer.

Ceres’s North Pole seen by DawnSciNews

Other images of the surface of Ceres show a diverse, impacted world reminiscent superficially of our own Moon. With a diameter of just 590 miles, Ceres is much smaller than our satellite. But it is also thought to be at least 25 percent ice, and was formerly an “active” body not just an inert rock.


Ceres also hosts many bright spots on its surface, including two especially sparkling features which have intrigued Nasa’s researchers but remain unexplained. The two spots are located in a crater 57 miles wide, but what exactly makes them shine is currently a mystery.

Nasa said that the images of Ceres will get even better the closer Dawn comes to the surface, stating they will be sent at “increasingly better resolution” in the coming weeks.

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17 April 2015 | 9:31 am – Source: wired.co.uk


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