Tags: dwarf | planet | ceres | mars | jupiter

Dwarf Planet Ceres Caught Speeding Between Mars, Jupiter

By    |   Wednesday, 21 Jan 2015 06:14 AM

NASA released the latest images of the dwarf planet Ceres on Monday taken by the spacecraft Dawn, giving many on Earth their best – and for some their first  – view of the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

While the images were taken from 238,000 miles away at about 80 percent resolution, NASA scientists were able to detect possible craters on the planet, according to the Wall Street Journal. Researchers believe it also may hold water and other clues to the formation of the universe, noted the newspaper.

A NASA statement said that as Dawn continued to approach Ceres, it will take better photos leading up to the spacecraft going into orbit around the dwarf planet on March 6. The images will continue to improve as the spacecraft spirals closer to the surface during its 16-month study.

"We know so much about the solar system and yet so little about dwarf planet Ceres," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission director at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Now, Dawn is ready to change that."

Ceres's average diameter is 590 miles and it contains a large amount of ice. Many scientists believe it may hide an ocean, according to NASA.

"The team is very excited to examine the surface of Ceres in never-before-seen detail," said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission at the University of California, Los Angeles. "We look forward to the surprises this mysterious world may bring."

Ceres is actually Dawn's second date in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. From 2011 to 2012, Dawn orbited Vesta, the second largest body in the asteroid belt with a diameter of 326 miles. During that trip, Dawn captured more than 30,000 pictures for NASA scientists to research.

For space watchers like Emily Lakdawalla, who posts a blog on The Planetary Society, the images have created a buzz.

"There are circular features that might (or might not!) turn out to be craters, and a noticeable bright spot," Lakdawalla wrote. "Other markings are not obviously circular. It's hazardous to try to read these images too closely – but they are awfully cool, showing Ceres beginning to come into focus."

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NASA released the latest images of the dwarf planet Ceres on Monday taken by the spacecraft Dawn, giving many on Earth their best – and for some their first – view of the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
dwarf, planet, ceres, mars, jupiter
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2015-14-21
Wednesday, 21 Jan 2015 06:14 AM
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