Details of the dwarf planet Ceres captured by the Dawn space probe

Image of the dwarf planet Ceres and one of a region of its surface in details (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Image of the dwarf planet Ceres and one of a region of its surface in details (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

In recent days, NASA’s space probe Dawn approached the dwarf planet Ceres and took a number close-up pictures of its surface. The latest images published by NASA were taken navigation purposes but start showing details of the geological elements, in particular the many craters of varying sizes. They make Ceres look like the Moon and show a story full of impacts.

The photograph selected by NASA among those taken between May 22 and 23 shows an area with a larger crater with smaller ones near it. The Dawn space probe was at an altitude of about 5,100 kilometers (3,200 miles) when it captured that image, whose resolution is 480 meters (1,600 feet) per pixel.

The main impact caused by an asteroid created the largest crater. Subsequently, various debris created as a result of that impact in turn hit Ceres ground generating at least a part of the secondary craters. This dwarf planet’s gravity is very weak, about 3% of that of Earth, but is enough to make at least part of the debris created by an impact fall back.

After transmitting the last set of images, the Dawn space probe resumed its approach to Ceres. On June 3 it’s expected to enter a lower orbit to spend the month studying the dwarf planet from an altitude of about 4,400 kilometers (2,700 miles). This will allow to perform a thorough survey with its instruments to discover the secrets of Ceres.

The Dawn space probe is scheduled to perform seven revolutions around Ceres and that will allow it to carry out a complete mapping with much greater details than previously available. It’s possible that this phase of the mission will allow to establish for good the nature of the strange white spots that have recently been the subject of much discussion.

The substance is that this phase of the Dawn space probe’s mission is just beginning and the results will keep coming for years. To have a comparison, the previous phase which allowed the close study of the giant asteroid Vesta ended in September 2012 but new articles based on the data collected by Dawn keep on being published.

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