Just sit back and watch the world turn… or should I say, watch the dwarf planet turn in this fascinating animation from Dawn as the spacecraft continues on its ion-powered approach to Ceres!
The images were captured by Dawn’s framing camera over the course on an hour on Jan. 13 at a distance of 238,000 miles (383,000 km) from Ceres. At 590 miles (950 km) wide Ceres is the largest object in the main asteroid belt.
“Already, the [latest] images hint at first surface structures such as craters,” said Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany. “We have identified all of the features seen by Hubble on the side of Ceres we have observed, and there are also suggestions of remarkable structures awaiting us as we move even closer.”
Although these latest 27-pixel images from Dawn aren’t quite yet better than Hubble’s images from Jan. 2004, very soon they will be.
“The team is very excited to examine the surface of Ceres in never-before-seen detail,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We look forward to the surprises this mysterious world may bring.”
Launched Sept. 27, 2007, Dawn previously spent over 13 months in orbit around the asteroid/protoplanet Vesta from 2011–12 and is now on final approach to Ceres. On March 6 Dawn will arrive at Ceres, becoming the first spacecraft to enter orbit around two different target worlds.