Dawn to Ceres: science begins

On April 10, the probe of the NASA Dawn will enter the first orbit around Ceres scientific. For the occasion, the INAF from Palermo organizes an event dedicated to the mission and the first results of this intriguing asteroid.
Since coming to the dwarf planet Ceres, March 6, the probe Dawn NASA worked perfectly, went on its way through the ion engine. The thrust of the engine, combined with the gravity of Ceres, is gradually leading the probe on a circular orbit around the dwarf planet. All systems and instruments on the spacecraft are in good health.


Credit: NASA/Italian Space Agency

Since early March, Dawn has followed the path leading towards the dark side of Ceres, the side facing the opposite side of the sun. After the gravitational coupling, the momentum of the probe led to a higher altitude, reaching the maximum distance of 75,400 km on March 18th. Today Dawn is about 42,000 km above the surface of Ceres, and is coming down to the first scientific planned orbit, 13,500 km above the surface.
On 10 and 14 April will be acquired in the next image with the optical camera on the spacecraft, and will be posted online after a preliminary analysis by the science team. In the first set of images the dwarf planet will appear as a thin crescent, just like the pictures taken on March 1, but with a resolution 1.5 times greater. The images reveal a crescent of April 14, slightly larger with even greater detail. Once Dawn will be positioned along its first orbit scientific, April 23, will begin the intensive campaign of data collection.
Towards the beginning of May the images will enhance our vision of the entire surface, including the mysterious bright spots that have captured the attention of scientists and enthusiasts. What are these reflections of sunlight is still a source of debate, but a closer look might help determine their nature. The regions that host the bright spots probably will not be visible for the set of images of 10 April, and still not be visible if chairo for April 14. May 9 Dawn completes the first phase of data collection on Ceres and begin spirals down toward a lower orbit, which will allow her to observe the dwarf planet closer.


Credit: NASA/Italian Space Agency

On April 10, on the occasion of the orbit of the probe, the INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo and IAPS-INAF in Rome, in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency and NASA, organized at the Palace of the Normans in Palermo event “Ceres yesterday and today: from Piazzi to Dawn”.
To 10 will be held the press conference, which will be streamed media from INAF, and from 17:30 will start the event open to the public, with the conference of Ileana Chinnici INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo and Maria Cristina De Sanctis INAF-IAPS that will compare historical observations with the latest scientific results of the Dawn mission.
Will be attended by the President of INAF Giovanni Bignami, Vice President of the Culture of the Senate Fabrizio Bocchino, the secretary of the Ministry of Education, University and Research David Pharaoh, the Councillor for Culture of the Municipality of Palermo Andrea Cusumano, Rector of the University of Palermo Roberto Lagalla, the Director of INAF-OAPA Giusi Micela, the Head of ASI Unit Observation Unit Barbara Negri, and the Director of INAF-IAPS.

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