Dawn mission spacecraft captured the most detailed images of the dwarf planet Ceres, to date. The images are very clear considering they were taken from a distance of 1470 kilometers.
The Dawn mission spacecraft transmitted the pictures on August 21. Ceres is located between Mars and Jupiter.
The photos depict the geography of the planet in a fairly detailed manner. They clearly show craters, mountains and cracks on the surface of the dwarf planet. Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director of Dawn was very satisfied with the images and the mission thus far. He stated, “Dawn is performing flawlessly in the 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.”
One of the photos shows what is calculated to be a six kilometer (four mile) cone shaped mountain protruding from the relatively flat service of the planet.
It will take quite some time for Dawn to capture the entire surface of Ceres. Every image taken only represents one percent of the planet’s surface. In addition, due to Dawn’s distance from Earth, it takes approximately 11 days for the images to be captured and broadcast back to NASA.
With the enhanced framing camera, scientists will be able to utilize three-dimensional modeling to thoroughly evaluate the surface of Ceres.
With the more detailed images, the hope is that mineral research and planet gravitational field measurements will be easier to study. The minerals will be looked at closely with Dawn’s visible and infrared spectrometer instruments. Although Dawn is the first mission to visit a dwarf planet, it is not Dawn’s first orbiting trip. It visited a rather large asteroid, Vesta, for over one year in 2011 and 2012.