Movie shows Ceres at opposition from sun

May 17, 2017 by Elizabeth Landau, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully observed Ceres at opposition on April 29, 2017, taking images from a position exactly between the sun and Ceres' surface. Mission specialists had carefully maneuvered Dawn into a special orbit so that the spacecraft could view Occator Crater, which contains the brightest area of Ceres, from this new perspective. This movie shows these opposition images, with contrast enhanced to highlight brightness differences. The bright spots of Occator stand out particularly well on an otherwise relatively bland surface. Dawn took these images from an altitude of about 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully observed Ceres at opposition on April 29, taking images from a position exactly between the sun and Ceres' surface. Mission specialists had carefully maneuvered Dawn into a special orbit so that the spacecraft could view Occator Crater, which contains the brightest area of Ceres, from this new perspective.

A new movie shows these opposition images, with contrast enhanced to highlight brightness differences. The bright spots of Occator stand out particularly well on an otherwise relatively bland . Dawn took these images from an altitude of about 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers).

Based on data from and spacecraft that previously viewed planetary bodies at opposition, scientists correctly predicted that Ceres would appear brighter from this opposition configuration. This increase in brightness, or "surge," relates the size of the grains of material on the surface, as well as the porosity of those materials. The science motivation for performing these observations is further explained in the March issue of the Dawn Journal blog.

Dawn's observations of Ceres during its more than two years there cover a broader range of illumination angles than almost any body in the solar system. This provides scientists with an opportunity to gain new insights into the surface properties. They are currently analyzing the new data.

The new observations and images were largely unaffected by the loss of function of Dawn's third reaction wheel. The spacecraft is healthy and orients itself using its hydrazine thrusters.

Explore further: Dawn observing Ceres; third reaction wheel malfunctions

Related Stories

Dawn observing Ceres; third reaction wheel malfunctions

April 27, 2017

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is preparing to observe Ceres on April 29 from an "opposition" position, directly between the dwarf planet's mysterious Occator Crater and the sun. This unique geometry may yield new insights about ...

Dawn sets course for higher orbit

August 31, 2016

After studying Ceres for more than eight months from its low-altitude science orbit, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will move higher up for different views of the dwarf planet.

Ceres' bright spots seen in striking new detail

September 9, 2015

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 Occator crater, with a resolution of 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel, give scientists ...

New Ceres views as Dawn moves higher

November 19, 2016

The brightest area on Ceres stands out amid shadowy, cratered terrain in a dramatic new view from NASA's Dawn spacecraft, taken as it looked off to the side of the dwarf planet. Dawn snapped this image on Oct. 16, from its ...

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).

Recommended for you

Astronomers spot signs of supermassive black hole mergers

October 23, 2018

New research, published today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, has found evidence for a large number of double supermassive black holes, likely precursors of gigantic black hole merging events. ...

ALMA maps Europa's temperature

October 23, 2018

Jupiter's icy moon Europa has a chaotic surface terrain that is fractured and cracked, suggesting a long-standing history of geologic activity.

NASA's First Image of Mars from a CubeSat

October 23, 2018

NASA's MarCO mission was designed to find out if briefcase-sized spacecraft called CubeSats could survive the journey to deep space. Now, MarCO—which stands for Mars Cube One—has Mars in sight.

Ultra-close stars discovered inside a planetary nebula

October 23, 2018

An international team of astronomers have discovered two stars in a binary pair that complete an orbit around each other in a little over three hours, residing in the planetary nebula M3-1. Remarkably, the stars could drive ...

0 comments

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.