Dawn Spacecraft Captures Best-Ever View of Dwarf Planet

By  //  January 28, 2015

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best image of the dwarf planet Ceres

Dwarf Planet-580

This animation of the dwarf planet Ceres was made by combining images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on Jan. 25. The spacecraft’s framing camera took these images, at a distance of about 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres, and they represent the highest-resolution views to date of the dwarf planet.

NASA.gov – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned the sharpest images ever seen of the dwarf planet Ceres.

The images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on Jan. 25, and represent a new milestone for a spacecraft that soon will become the first human-made probe to visit a dwarf planet.

 Jim Green

Jim Green

“We know so little about our vast solar system, but thanks to economical missions like Dawn, those mysteries are being solved,” said Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

At 43 pixels wide, the new images are more than 30 percent higher in resolution than those taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2003 and 2004 at a distance of over 150 million miles.

The resolution is higher because Dawn is traveling through the solar system to Ceres, while Hubble remains fixed in Earth orbit.

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The new Dawn images come on the heels of initial navigation images taken Jan. 13 that reveal a white spot on the dwarf planet and the suggestion of craters.

Hubble images also had glimpsed a white spot on the dwarf planet, but its nature is still unknown.

Robert Mase

Robert Mase

“Ceres is a ‘planet’ that you’ve probably never heard of,” said Robert Mase, Dawn project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

“We’re excited to learn all about it with Dawn and share our discoveries with the world.”

As the spacecraft gets closer to Ceres, its camera will return even better images.

On March 6, Dawn will enter into orbit around Ceres to capture detailed images and measure variations in light reflected from Ceres, which should reveal the planet’s surface composition.


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