Dawn in excellent shape one month after Ceres arrival

April 7, 2015 by Elizabeth Landau
Artist's concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. Credit: NASA/JPL

Since its capture by the gravity of dwarf planet Ceres on March 6, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has performed flawlessly, continuing to thrust with its ion engine as planned. The thrust, combined with Ceres' gravity, is gradually guiding the spacecraft into a circular orbit around the dwarf planet. All of the spacecraft's systems and instruments are in excellent health.

Dawn has been following its planned trajectory on the dark side of Ceres—the side facing away from the sun—since early March. After it entered orbit, the spacecraft's momentum carried it to a higher altitude, reaching a maximum of 46,800 miles (75,400 kilometers) on March 18. Today, Dawn is about 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers) above Ceres, descending toward the first planned science orbit, which will be 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) above the surface.

The next optical navigation of Ceres will be taken on April 10 and April 14, and are expected to be available online after initial analysis by the science team. In the first of these, the will appear as a thin crescent, much like the images taken on March 1, but with about 1.5 times higher resolution. The April 14 images will reveal a slightly larger crescent in even greater detail. Once Dawn settles into the first science orbit on April 23, the will begin the intensive prime science campaign.

By early May, images will improve our view of the entire surface, including the mysterious bright spots that have captured the imaginations of scientists and space enthusiasts alike. What these reflections of sunlight represent is still unknown, but closer views should help determine their nature. The regions containing the bright spots will likely not be in view for the April 10 images; it is not yet certain whether they will be in view for the April 14 set.

On May 9, Dawn will complete its first Ceres science phase and begin to spiral down to a lower orbit to observe Ceres from a closer vantage point.

Dawn previously explored the giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months, from 2011 to 2012, capturing detailed images and data about that body.

Explore further: Dawn captures sharper images of Ceres

More information: More details about Dawn's trajectory are available at: dawnblog.jpl.nasa.gov

More information about Dawn is online at: dawn.jpl.nasa.gov

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Returners
1 / 5 (2) Apr 07, 2015
including the mysterious bright spots that have captured the imaginations of scientists and space enthusiasts alike. What these reflections of sunlight represent is still unknown, but CLOSER views should help determine their nature


Oh come on, here's some hypotheses:
Cryovolcanism
FRESH (cosmic time anyway) Meteor/comet impact
A Russian "Failed Mars" mission.
The only spots without ice...
The only spots with ice...

Different type of ice...
Ice made of different isotopes of oxygen or hydrogen, again implying origin of outer solar system for some of the ice and inner solar system for other ice. Spectrograph analysis forthcoming.
Moebius
1.8 / 5 (10) Apr 07, 2015
So why would the images only be available after analysis? That's a good way to insure the images don't contain anything the public shouldn't see. Not to mention time to Photoshop any images.
shavera
4.5 / 5 (8) Apr 07, 2015
Returners: Unknown doesn't mean they don't have some ideas about it. Perhaps, unlike so many other poor journalism articles, they're just not offering to speculate without further information on the issue.

Moebius: Tin foil hatting aside, initial analysis often means cleaning up noise and other non-information in the image. Cameras don't work perfectly, Transmissions don't send perfectly, and space is a really long way away for lots to go wrong. You try working for a non-Kerbal-based space agency for a while, see how it really is.
foolspoo
1 / 5 (3) Apr 07, 2015
Moebius, you raise an excellent point. but it is far more likely to prevent hysteria due to the laymens inability to comprehend and decipher what they are looking at. see the face on mars and the man in the moon for excellent examples.

and yes, the majority of our most beautiful, interstellar images are "photoshopped." but this is strictly due to our limited range of vision.
barakn
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 08, 2015
So why would the images only be available after analysis? That's a good way to insure the images don't contain anything the public shouldn't see. Not to mention time to Photoshop any images.
Meanwhile, back in reality, images from spacecraft suffer from cosmic ray strikes, low contrast, and motion blur. This latter problem is exacerbated because rather than recording an image in three different colors simultaneously, they typically use different filters on the same imager. Thus, in order to create a color image, they have to choose and combine images made at different wavelengths of objects that may have moved or rotated relative to the camera between each successive image. Sometimes they have to stitch images together to make a larger, more complete image, or combine a series into an animation. There's a lot of hard work in preparing quality images that is apparently lost on the paranoid conspiracy buffs that haunt the web.
foolspoo
1 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2015
the simple life does not require simple thought. let alone redundancy posing as originality.

and barak, there is no conspiracy when there is admission...

http://www.scienc...99000284
et cetera ad infinitum

please learn to think and stop regurgitating
EnsignFlandry
4 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2015
So why would the images only be available after analysis? That's a good way to insure the images don't contain anything the public shouldn't see. Not to mention time to Photoshop any images.


They have to filter out the images of the base where the Mother Ship refuels, Mobius. You know, the secret one. It sometimes refuels at Area 51, but no one knows that.
(shheez!)
barakn
5 / 5 (4) Apr 09, 2015
and barak, there is no conspiracy when there is admission...

http://www.scienc...99000284
et cetera ad infinitum

please learn to think and stop regurgitating

An "admission" would have to be performed by the guilty party, so an admission it's not. But let's look at the paper anyway, which refers to the almost 50-year old Apollo I fire and NASA's response, including stacking "the official board investigating the fire with its own personnel and people who had close ties to the agency." NASA and the nation learned some important lessons from that event. After the Challenger Explosion, for example, the investigatory committee was commissioned by the President, not NASA, and included the preeminent physicist Richard Feynman, a man of great curiosity and intellect and certainly not one in NASA's pocket. It is no longer 1967. Pointing out that particular episode smacks of cherry-picking.
foolspoo
1 / 5 (1) Apr 09, 2015
enjoy your bliss

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