New names and insights at Ceres

July 29, 2015 by Elizabeth Landau, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This color-coded map from NASA's Dawn mission shows the highs and lows of topography on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres. It is labeled with names of features approved by the International Astronomical Union. Occator, the mysterious crater containing Ceres' mysterious bright spots, is named after the Roman agriculture deity of harrowing, a method of leveling soil. They retain their bright appearance in this map, although they are color-coded in the same green elevation of the crater floor in which they sit. The color scale extends about 5 miles (7.5 kilometers) below the surface in indigo to 5 miles (7.5 kilometers) above the surface in white. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Colorful 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 kilometers).

Scientists continue to analyze the latest data from Dawn as the spacecraft makes its way to its third mapping orbit.

"The craters we find on Ceres, in terms of their depth and diameter, are very similar to what we see on Dione and Tethys, two icy satellites of Saturn that are about the same size and density as Ceres. The features are pretty consistent with an ice-rich crust," said Dawn science team member Paul Schenk, a geologist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston.

Some of these craters and other features now have official names, inspired by spirits and deities relating to agriculture from a variety of cultures. The International Astronomical Union recently approved a batch of names for features on Ceres.

The newly labeled features include Occator, the mysterious containing Ceres' brightest spots, which has a diameter of about 60 miles (90 kilometers) and a depth of about 2 miles (4 kilometers). Occator is the name of the Roman agriculture deity of harrowing, a method of leveling soil.

A smaller crater with bright material, previously labeled "Spot 1," is now identified as Haulani, after the Hawaiian plant goddess. Haulani has a diameter of about 20 miles (30 kilometers). Temperature data from Dawn's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer show that this crater seems to be colder than most of the territory around it.

Dantu crater, named after the Ghanaian god associated with the planting of corn, is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) across and 3 miles (5 kilometers) deep. A crater called Ezinu, after the Sumerian goddess of grain, is about the same size. Both are less than half the size of Kerwan, named after the Hopi spirit of sprouting maize, and Yalode, a crater named after the African Dahomey goddess worshipped by women at harvest rites.

"The impact craters Dantu and Ezinu are extremely deep, while the much larger impact basins Kerwan and Yalode exhibit much shallower depth, indicating increasing ice mobility with crater size and age," said Ralf Jaumann, a Dawn science team member at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin.

Almost directly south of Occator is Urvara, a crater named for the Indian and Iranian deity of plants and fields. Urvara, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) wide and 3 miles (6 kilometers) deep, has a prominent central pointy peak that is 2 miles (3 kilometers) high.

This pair of images shows color-coded maps from NASA's Dawn mission, revealing the highs and lows of topography on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres. The map at left is centered on terrain at 60 degrees east longitude; the map at right is centered on 240 degrees east longitude. The color scale extends about 5 miles (7.5 kilometers) below the surface in indigo to 5 miles (7.5 kilometers) above the surface in white. The topographic map was constructed from analyzing images from Dawn's framing camera taken from varying sun and viewing angles. The map was combined with an image mosaic of Ceres and projected as an orthographic projection. The well-known bright spots in the center of Ceres northern hemisphere in the image at right retain their bright appearance, although they are color-coded in the same green elevation of the crater floor in which they sit. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Dawn is currently spiraling toward its third science orbit, 900 miles (less than 1,500 kilometers) above the surface, or three times closer to Ceres than its previous orbit. The spacecraft will reach this orbit in mid-August and begin taking images and other data again.

Ceres, with a diameter of 584 miles (940 kilometers), is the largest object in the main asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter. This makes Ceres about 40 percent the size of Pluto, another dwarf planet, which NASA's New Horizons mission flew by earlier this month.

This image, from Dawn's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR), highlights a bright region on Ceres known as Haulani, named after the Hawaiian plant goddess. Each row shows Ceres' surface at different wavelengths. On top is a black-and-white image; in the middle is a true-color image, and the bottom is in thermal infrared, where brighter colors represent higher temperatures and dark colors correspond to colder temperatures. The three images appear slightly flattened in the y-axis and smeared in the upper part due to the motion of the spacecraft. These images were taken at a distance of 2,722 miles (4,381 kilometers) from Ceres and have a resolution of about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per pixel. They were produced on June 6, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/ASI/INAF

On March 6, 2015, Dawn made history as the first mission to reach a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two distinct extraterrestrial targets. It conducted extensive observations of Vesta in 2011-2012.

Explore further: Ceres spots continue to mystify in latest Dawn images

Related Stories

Ceres spots continue to mystify in latest Dawn images

June 23, 2015

The closer we get to Ceres, the more intriguing the distant dwarf planet becomes. New images of Ceres from NASA's Dawn spacecraft provide more clues about its mysterious bright spots, and also reveal a pyramid-shaped peak ...

Fly over Ceres in new video

June 8, 2015

A new animated video of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, provides a unique perspective of this heavily cratered, mysterious world.

Dawn glimpses Ceres' north pole

April 19, 2015

After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world. These images were taken on April 10 from ...

Ceres animation showcases bright spots

May 11, 2015

The mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres are better resolved in a new sequence of images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 3 and 4, 2015. The images were taken from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers).

Dawn spirals closer to Ceres, returns a new view

May 28, 2015

A new view of Ceres, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 23, shows finer detail is becoming visible on the dwarf planet. The spacecraft snapped the image at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) with a resolution ...

Bright spots shine in newest Dawn Ceres images

June 11, 2015

New images of dwarf planet Ceres, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, show the cratered surface of this mysterious world in sharper detail than ever before. These are among the first snapshots from Dawn's second mapping orbit, ...

Recommended for you

Astronomers discover an unusual nuclear transient

January 23, 2019

An international group of astronomers has detected an unusual nuclear transient in the nucleus of a weakly active galaxy. The new transient was identified by the OGLE-IV Transient Detection System and received designation ...

Birth of massive black holes in the early universe revealed

January 23, 2019

The light released from around the first massive black holes in the universe is so intense that it is able to reach telescopes across the entire expanse of the universe. Incredibly, the light from the most distant black holes ...

Scientist sheds light on Titan's mysterious atmosphere

January 23, 2019

A new Southwest Research Institute study tackles one of the greatest mysteries about Titan, one of Saturn's moons: the origin of its thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere. The study posits that one key to Titan's mysterious atmosphere ...

6 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

AGreatWhopper
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 29, 2015
That is so American.

"We overthrew your king for our white powder addicts, we've wiped out most of the native fauna, killed off half the native population with Western diseases...none of which we regret, have apologized for or made reparations or even concessions to remaining Polynesians, but we're naming craters on Ceres with Hawaiian names!"

Obviously they don't really consider encountering sentient aliens. "Interesting names. Where do they come from?" Yeah, not a story you'd really want to tell ET as an introduction.
jljenkins
1 / 5 (2) Jul 29, 2015
To the winner go the spoils. It is the US' destiny to leave widows and orphans and to make capitalists happy. Exterminate less fit life forms. Evolution is a theory. The American Century reshaping the planet is a reality. And we do a great job of it!

So get your head out of the clouds.

Inv #803552
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (2) Jul 29, 2015
@AGW: And you have references to all those strong claims? The only native population where we know 50 % of the population was intermittently killed, likely by diseases, is native americans. [ http://www.pnas.o...444.full ] And that was a special case of near total isolation followed by massive exposure. E.g. the North America viking visits or inuit migrations between Asia and America didn't start the extinction spike, and for example Australia had relatively recent genetic influx (that brought the dingo ancestors) before europeans arrived.

To most people, and certainly the involved scientists, the names are honoring all our cultures.

Re "aliens" (really?), historical names are history. Many people have names that are less honorable if history would be taken as having modern relevance.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (4) Jul 29, 2015
@jljenkins: Evolution is a fact, and its mechanisms, its theory, doesn't predict that less fit life forms are necessarily exterminated.

Look at us humans for example! We are now known to be a hardy hybrid, a street crossing between many earlier concurrent human species. Those species weren't exterminated, they were incorporated.
Shootist
5 / 5 (3) Jul 29, 2015
That is so American.

"We overthrew your king for our white powder addicts, we've wiped out most of the native fauna, killed off half the native population with Western diseases...none of which we regret, have apologized for or made reparations or even concessions to remaining Polynesians, but we're naming craters on Ceres with Hawaiian names!"

Obviously they don't really consider encountering sentient aliens. "Interesting names. Where do they come from?" Yeah, not a story you'd really want to tell ET as an introduction.


Your nihilism is showing.
TechnoCreed
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2015
Here is a commented animation of some features of Ceres. The mountain mentioned in it would be at 315° longitude, -10° latitude on the topological map above. http://photojourn...1280.m4v

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.