Dawn sends sharper scenes from dwarf planet Ceres
The closest-yet views of Ceres, transferred by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, present the small world’s features in exceptional detail, including Ceres’ tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures.
Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California said “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.”
Dawn takes 11 days to capture and return images of Ceres’ whole surface at its current orbital altitude of 915 miles (1,470 km). Each 11-day cycle consists of 14 orbits. Over the next 2 months, the spacecraft will map the entirety of Ceres six times.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope with bright streaks. The image was taken on 19 August 2015 at a resolution of 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel.
A full resolution close-up of Ceres’ four-mile-high “Lonely Mountain” from the picture above.
The spacecraft is using its framing camera to extensively map the surface, permitting 3-D modeling. Every image from this orbit has a resolution of 140 meters per pixel, and covers less than 1% of the total surface of Ceres.
Simultaneously, Dawn’s observable and infrared mapping spectrometer is collecting information that will give researchers a better understanding of the minerals discovered on Ceres’ surface.
Engineers and researchers will also refine their measurements of Ceres’ gravity field, which will facilitate mission planners in designing Dawn’s next orbit — its lowest — as well as the journey to get there. Certainly in late October, Dawn will begin spiraling toward this final orbit, which will be at an altitude of 230 miles (375 kilometers).
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 6 March 2015.