Dawn snaps its best-yet image of dwarf planet ceres

December 5, 2014 by Elizabeth Landau
From about three times the distance from Earth to the moon, NASA's Dawn spacecraft spies its final destination -- the dwarf planet Ceres. This uncropped, unmagnified view of Ceres was taken by Dawn on Dec. 1, 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The Dawn spacecraft has delivered a glimpse of Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, in a new image taken 740,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from the dwarf planet. This is Dawn's best image yet of Ceres as the spacecraft makes its way toward this unexplored world.

"Now, finally, we have a spacecraft on the verge of unveiling this mysterious, alien world. Soon it will reveal myriad secrets Ceres has held since the of the solar system," said Marc Rayman, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, chief engineer and mission director of the Dawn mission.

Dawn will be captured into Ceres' orbit in March, marking the first visit to a by a spacecraft. To date, the best images of Ceres come from the Hubble Space Telescope. In early 2015, however, Dawn will begin delivering images at much higher resolution.

Since launching in 2007, Dawn has already visited Vesta, a giant protoplanet currently located 104 million miles (168 million kilometers) away from Ceres. The distance between Vesta and Ceres is greater than the distance between the Earth and the sun. During its 14 months in orbit around Vesta, the spacecraft delivered unprecedented scientific insights, including images of its cratered surface and important clues about its geological history. Vesta and Ceres are the two most massive bodies in the .

The nine-pixel-wide image of Ceres released today serves as a final calibration of the science camera that is necessary before Dawn gets to Ceres. The dwarf planet appears approximately as bright as Venus sometimes appears from Earth. Ceres has an average diameter of about 590 miles (950 kilometers).

Dawn begins its approach phase toward Ceres on December 26.

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Pavel-chemist
5 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2014
Great mission, good article, but sorry to see "uncropped, unmagnified view of Ceres" caption under an image that is obviously highly magnified crop-out.
pandora4real
not rated yet Dec 05, 2014
Agreed, but then when you use Adblade adverts to pimp your page...quality isn't job #1.
Jonseer
not rated yet Dec 07, 2014
I am very excited about this mission. I think Ceres will prove all the doubters wrong, and be prove to be far from the uninteresting largest lump of chondrite in the asteroid belt they think it is. It's surface could be riddled with all sorts of hollowed out caverns and deep large recesses from the sublimation of water ice that over the eons left behind a variety of minerals and elements essential to building a space base exposed or just below the surface in large enough quantities to make it the best place to establish an off world site for future exploration. Wishful thinking I know, but hey at least the possibility is not absurd.

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