NASA's Dawn spacecraft sends remarkable images of Ceres
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has delivered the closest-yet views of the dwarf planet Ceres.
The US space agency on Tuesday released a set of new images that provide us the closest look yet at what's happening on the surface of the dwarf planet.
The latest pictures provided by Dawn show the small world's features in unprecedented detail, including Ceres' tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures, said NASA.
“Dawn is performing flawlessly in this new orbit as it conducts its ambitious exploration. The spacecraft's view is now three times as sharp as in its previous mapping orbit, revealing exciting new details of this intriguing dwarf planet,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission director, said in a statement.
According to NASA, Dawn takes 11 days to capture and return images of Ceres' whole surface at its current orbital altitude of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). Each 11-day cycle consists of 14 orbits. 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 modeling. Every image from this orbit has a resolution of 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel, and covers less than 1 percent of the surface of Ceres.
Dawn is the first mission to visit a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two distinct solar system targets. It orbited protoplanet Vesta for 14 months in 2011 and 2012, and arrived at Ceres on March 6, 2015.