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.
“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.