Video of Ceres from DAWN Images

Ceres can be considered as either a large asteroid or a small planet, often called a dwarf planet. It is almost 590 miles (950 kilometers) across, as big as the state of Texas. It is located in the asteroid belt, at an orbit of about 2.8 AUs or 419 million kilometers from the Sun. (Earth is at 1 AU, Mars is at 1.5 AUs)

DAWN is a NASA spacecraft tasked with a mission to intercept and study asteroids Vesta and Ceres. After spending a year orbiting Vesta and relaying pictures back to Earth, DAWN left in Sept 2012 and headed toward Ceres. Now orbiting Ceres, DAWN is relaying back pictures which have been assembled into an animated vision.

Fly Over Dwarf Planet Ceres

– [youtube.com]

A new video animation of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, provides dramatic flyover views of this heavily cratered, mysterious world. The images come from Dawn’s first mapping orbit at Ceres, at an altitude of 8,400 mile (13,600 kilometers), as well as navigational images taken from 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) away. The images provided information for a three-dimensional terrain model. The vertical dimension has been exaggerated by a factor of two, and a star field has been added in the background.

DAWN – [nasa.gov]

Dawn Mission Overview
During its nearly decade-long mission, the Dawn mission will study the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, celestial bodies believed to have accreted early in the history of the solar system. The mission will characterize the early solar system and the processes that dominated its formation.

During the earliest epochs of our solar system, the materials in the solar nebula varied with their distance from the sun. As this distance increased, the temperature dropped, with terrestrial bodies forming closer to the sun, and icy bodies forming farther away.

The asteroid Vesta and the recently categorized dwarf planet Ceres have been selected because, while both speak to conditions and processes early in the formation of the solar system, they developed into two different kinds of bodies. Vesta is a dry, differentiated object with a surface that shows signs of resurfacing. It resembles the rocky bodies of the inner solar system, including Earth. Ceres, by contrast, has a primitive surface containing water-bearing minerals, and may possess a weak atmosphere. It appears to have many similarities to the large icy moons of the outer solar system.

By studying both these two distinct bodies with the same complement of instruments on the same spacecraft, the Dawn mission hopes to compare the different evolutionary path each took as well as create a picture of the early solar system overall. Data returned from the Dawn spacecraft could provide opportunities for significant breakthroughs in our knowledge of how the solar system formed.

To carry out its scientific mission, the Dawn spacecraft will carry three science instruments whose data will be used in combination to characterize these bodies. These instruments consist of a visible camera, a visible and infrared mapping spectrometer, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer. In addition to these instruments, radiometric and optical navigation data will provide data relating to the gravity field and thus bulk properties and internal structure of the two bodies.

SEE ALSO:
Life in the Asteroid Belt
Dawn Update
Dawn in the Belt
Water on Ceres

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