‘Flawless’ Dawn sends new pics of Ceres back to Earth

26 Aug 2015

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is getting closer and closer to Ceres, sending us back better images of the dwarf planet’s surface.

The new images offer a remarkably detailed look into a world unknown to us not long ago. There are massive craters, extensive areas of perfectly smooth terrain and even the odd mountain range.

It takes Dawn 11 days to send back images  – it is currently in between Mars and Jupiter, tracking its subject – with its ‘flawless’ execution pleasing NASA staff.

Each 11-day cycle sees Dawn orbit Ceres 14 times, with it currently flying 915 miles above the surface. NASA hopes that Dawn’s mission will see the dwarf planet mapped, in its entirety, six times.

In this image, Dawn spotted a tall, conical mountain on Ceres, standing four miles high:

Dawn Ceres

Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly-streaked slope.

A mountain range is found in the bottom left of this image, lying in the centre of a crater:

Dawn Ceres

Dawn is performing flawlessly in this new orbit as it conducts its ambitious exploration,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn‘s chief engineer and mission director, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

“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.”

Dawn started orbiting Ceres – the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter – back in March.

In the approach, it had sent back images with suspicious bright shining lights on the dwarf planet, which scientists are still confused by. They even produced this advert to seek help, which you can vote on here.

Dawn Ceres NasaAll images via NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic