[meteorite-list] Ceres Animation Showcases Bright Spots

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 11 May 2015 13:40:58 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201505112040.t4BKewRS020636_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Ceres Animation Showcases Bright Spots
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
May 11, 2015

This animation shows a sequence of images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft
on May 4, 2015, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers), in
its RC3 mapping orbit. The image resolution is 0.8 mile (1.3 kilometers)
per pixel. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres are better resolved
in a new sequence of images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 3 and
4, 2015. The images were taken from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600
kilometers). The animation is available at:


In this closest-yet view, the brightest spots within a crater in the northern
hemisphere are revealed to be composed of many smaller spots. However,
their exact nature remains unknown.

"Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these
spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material
on the surface, possibly ice," said Christopher Russell, principal investigator
for the Dawn mission from the University of California, Los Angeles.

These images offer scientists new insights into crater shapes and sizes,
and a host of other intriguing geological features on the surface. The
image resolution is 0.8 mile (1.3 kilometers) per pixel.

Dawn has now concluded its first mapping orbit, in which it completed
one 15-day full circle around Ceres while making a host of new observations
with its scientific instruments. On May 9, the spacecraft powered on its
ion engine to begin the month-long descent toward its second mapping orbit,
which it will enter on June 6. In this next phase, Dawn will circle Ceres
about every three days at an altitude of 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers)
-- three times closer than the previous orbit. During this phase, referred
to as Dawn's survey orbit, the spacecraft will comprehensively map the
surface to begin unraveling Ceres' geologic history and assess whether
the dwarf planet is active. The spacecraft will pause twice to take images
of Ceres as it spirals down into this new orbit.

Dawn is the first mission to visit a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit
two distinct solar system targets. It studied giant asteroid Vesta for
14 months in 2011 and 2012, and arrived at Ceres on March 6, 2015.

Dawn's mission is managed by JPL 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.
UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc.,
in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace
Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space
Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international
partners on the mission team. For a complete list of mission participants,


More information about Dawn is available at the following sites:



Media Contact

Elizabeth Landau
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Elizabeth.Landau at jpl.nasa.gov

Received on Mon 11 May 2015 04:40:58 PM PDT

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