NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has captured a new set of high-resolution images of dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken from a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 km), and will remain there till May 9.
Original animation GIF image of Ceres by NASA’s Dawn:
The spacecraft has been moving gradually towards Ceres for the past three years and aims to capture a 3D image. This will lead to the creation of a high-resolution map, showing the dwarf planet. Dawn activated its thrusters in March, to move closer to Ceres and on April 10 high-resolution images of the planet were captured. The spacecraft will move closer to the planet on May 10.
“Ceres is the largest rock body between Mars and Jupiter,” said National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Ceres has an average diameter of 590 miles (950 km), and is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture and harvest. The planet was named by discoverer Father Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801 and was declared s a dwarf planet in 2006. As the spacecraft is set to enter the orbit at 8,400 miles above Ceres’ surface on April 23, more detailed images are likely to be captured.
In 2010 and 2011, Dawn captured asteroid Vesta and Ceres is its second stop. The new image of the dwarf planet was showcased at the 2015 General Assembly of Geosciences Union in Vienna. Researchers stated that the images indicated Ceres was an active planet. Principal investigator for the Dawn mission at the University of California Chris Russell stated that Ceres was an active planet and not an inert rock. He mentioned that more materials are waiting to be discovered.
Researchers are keen to look into the white spots of Ceres through the mission costing $473 million. Ceres takes about 4.61 Earth years, to complete one orbit and travels about 250 million miles from the Sun. More details are expected to be revealed, when Dawn enters the orbit.