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NASA’s Dawn captures closest-yet images of Ceres

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NASA's spacecraft Dawn credit: www.nasa.gov
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By NewsGram Staff-Writer

NASA’s orbital spacecraft Dawn has sent the closest images of the dwarf planet called Ceres. The stunning pictures display Ceres’ cater formation features with tall conical mountains and narrow braided fractures on it.

credit: www.nbcnews.com
credit: www.nbcnews.com

“Dawn’s view is now three times sharper than its previous mapping orbit, revealing exciting new details of this intriguing dwarf planet,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

At its current orbital altitude of 1,470 km, Dawn takes 11 days to capture and return images of Ceres’ whole surface. Over the next two months, the spacecraft will map the entirety of Ceres six times. The spacecraft is using its framing camera to extensively map the surface, enabling 3-D modelling. Every image from this orbit has a resolution of 450 feet per pixel, and covers less than one percent of the surface of Ceres.

At the same time, Dawn’s visible and infra-red mapping spectrometer is collecting data that will give scientists a better understanding of the minerals found on Ceres’ surface. Engineers and scientists will now refine their measurements of Ceres’ gravity field which will help mission planners in designing Dawn’s next orbit.

Dawn is the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, and also the first to orbit two distinct solar system targets. In late October, Dawn will begin spiralling toward the final orbit, which will be at an altitude of 375 km.

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NASA positive on next planet-hunting mission launch

The spacecraft will be looking for a phenomenon known as a transit, where a planet passes in front of its star, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star's brightness

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NASA, Pixabay

Meteorologists with the US Air Force 45th Space Wing have predicted an 80 per cent chance of favourable weather for SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s launch with NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite aimed at detecting planets outside our solar system.

ISS is a permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons
This mission has NASA very positive. Wikimedia Commons

The launch is scheduled for Sunday at 6.32 p.m. (4.02 a.m. on Monday, India time) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The primary weather concern for the launch day are strong winds, NASA said in a statement late Saturday. The survey, also known as Tess, is NASA’s next step in the search for exoplanets, including those that could support life.

Once in orbit, Tess will spend about two years surveying 200,000 of the brightest stars near the Sun to search for planets outside our solar system. Tess will find the most promising exoplanets orbiting relatively nearby stars, giving future researchers a rich set of new targets for more comprehensive follow-up studies, including the potential to assess their capacity to harbour life.

Also Read: NASA sending first-ever mission to study Mars’ deep interior

With the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon, the spacecraft will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth, NASA said in an earlier statement. Sixty days after the launch and following tests of its instruments, the satellite will begin its initial two-year mission. Four wide-field cameras will give Tess a field-of-view that covers 85 per cent of our entire sky.

NASA Kepler spaceship will be used.

Within this vast visual perspective, the sky has been divided into 26 sectors that Tess will observe one by one. The first year of observations will map the 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky, and the second year will map the 13 sectors of the northern sky.

The spacecraft will be looking for a phenomenon known as a transit, where a planet passes in front of its star, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star’s brightness. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft used the same method to spot more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets, most of them orbiting faint stars 300 to 3,000 light-years away. IANS

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