NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Snaps Clearest Ever Images Of Ceres

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Snaps Clearest Ever Images Of Ceres

NASA Ceres 310x

Image were taken earlier this month from 52,000 miles away.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft set out in 2007 with one goal in mind: To aid NASA in the research of dwarf planets inside the asteroid belt. It's due to start orbiting Ceres, its secondary target, early next month, but it's already close enough to snap some sharp images of the planetoid.

According to NASA, the new images were taken last week while Dawn was approximately 52,000 miles away from the planet.

"Dawn will be gently captured into orbit around Ceres on March 6," said NASA in its latest Dawn update. "As the spacecraft delivers better images and other data, the science team will be investigating the nature and composition of the dwarf planet, including the nature of the craters and bright spots that are coming into focus."

NASA says the images "have a resolution of 4.9 miles per pixel," and they're the best, sharpest images of Ceres currently available.

Before aiding NASA and UCLA (the school tasked with the lion's share of Dawn's mission science) in Ceres exploration, Dawn spent over a year orbiting Vesta, an asteroid over 300 miles in diameter. By studying the two bodies, NASA hopes to gain a better understanding of how our Solar System originally formed.

Ceres was discovered in 1801, but its existence (or rather, the existence of a planet between Jupiter and Mars) was hypothesized as far back as 1772.

Source: NASA

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http://roosterteeth.com/archive/?id=54&v=more&s=2

I think this is somewhat relevant.

Looks pretty dead to me
image

I wonder how they define an exact point at which something is captured into the orbit of something else, since there's no real definable edge of a gravity field.

Alexander Kirby:
I wonder how they define an exact point at which something is captured into the orbit of something else, since there's no real definable edge of a gravity field.

Ideally if it manages to make a full revolution around the thing without flying off or crashing. Sure real life physics are a little more wonky than KSP, but the idea is the same.

Also, nice, I guess? I like Ceres. Now we just need to dig some tunnels in it, spin it until we get some gravity, and then use it as a mining base or something.

Alexander Kirby:
I wonder how they define an exact point at which something is captured into the orbit of something else, since there's no real definable edge of a gravity field.

There's no definable edge to the gravity field, but the Hill Sphere does have a definable edge, where an object going slow enough to orbit Ceres will be moving too slow relative to the sun and will fall towards it instead, and there's a clearly definable difference between open and closed conic sections. To be captured the trajectory has to be a closed orbit inside the Hill Sphere. Anything outside of that radius simply can't orbit Ceres, it will orbit the sun. It might have some type of resonance with series like a quasi-satellite or horsehoe orbit, but it still orbits the sun, and those types of co-orbits aren't really useful for this type of mission anyway.

While Ceres is relatively cool in regards to our Solar System and the history of it... it's boring. Even as someone who knows more about the history of our pale blue dot and its neighbors than many of my peers & acquaintances, I'm waiting for the first high-resolution pictures of another extra-solar star or another extra-solar planet.

I'm sick of all this "ooh, here's a picture of a... blob! It's another star!" or "here's a picture of a galaxy in infrared/UV!"

Lame. Useful to science and furthering astronomical understanding, but lame.

I want to see an extra-solar star the same way we have now seen Saturn or Jupiter. But, even if I live to be a centenarian, I'm likely going to be long dead before that happens. Balls. Wake me when New Horizons reaches Pluto this summer.

 

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