[meteorite-list] Dawn Delivers New Image of Ceres
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2015 14:33:54 -0800 (PST)
Dawn Delivers New Image of Ceres
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
January 19, 2015
The Dawn spacecraft observed Ceres for an hour on Jan. 13, 2015, from
a distance of 238,000 miles (383,000 kilometers). A little more than half
of its surface was observed at a resolution of 27 pixels. This animated
GIF shows bright and dark features.Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI
As NASA's Dawn spacecraft closes in on Ceres, new images show the dwarf
planet at 27 pixels across, about three times better than the calibration
images taken in early December. These are the first in a series of images
that will be taken for navigation purposes during the approach to Ceres.
Over the next several weeks, Dawn will deliver increasingly better and
better images of the dwarf planet, leading up to the spacecraft's capture
into orbit around Ceres on March 6. The images will continue to improve
as the spacecraft spirals closer to the surface during its 16-month study
of the dwarf planet.
"We know so much about the solar system and yet so little about dwarf
planet Ceres. Now, Dawn is ready to change that," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's
chief engineer and mission director, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena, California.
The best images of Ceres so far were taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope
in 2003 and 2004. This most recent images from Dawn, taken January 13,
2015, at about 80 percent of Hubble resolution, are not quite as sharp.
But Dawn's images will surpass Hubble's resolution at the next imaging
opportunity, which will be at the end of January.
"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, Gottingen,
Ceres is the largest body in the main asteroid belt, which lies between
Mars and Jupiter. It has an average diameter of 590 miles (950 kilometers),
and is thought to contain a large amount of ice. Some scientists think
it's possible that the surface conceals an ocean.
Dawn's arrival at Ceres will mark the first time a spacecraft has ever
visited a dwarf planet.
"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."
The spacecraft has already delivered more than 30,000 images and many
insights about Vesta, the second most massive body in the asteroid belt.
Dawn orbited Vesta, which has an average diameter of 326 miles (525 kilometers),
from 2011 to 2012. Thanks to its ion propulsion system, Dawn is the first
spacecraft ever targeted to orbit two deep-space destinations.
JPL manages the Dawn mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in
Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program,
managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) is responsible for
overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Virginia,
designed and built the spacecraft. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn
mission science. The Dawn framing cameras were developed and built under
the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research,
Gottingen, Germany, with significant contributions by German Aerospace
Center (DLR), Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination
with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering,
Braunschweig. The Framing Camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society,
DLR, and NASA/JPL. The Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical
Institute are international partners on the mission team.
More information about Dawn is online at http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov .
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Elizabeth.Landau at jpl.nasa.gov
Received on Mon 19 Jan 2015 05:33:54 PM PST