NASA’s Dawn spacecraft continues its trek towards Ceres. On February 12, it snapped another image (pictured above). At the time, it was 52,000 miles away from the dwarf planet.
“As we slowly approach the stage, our eyes transfixed on Ceres and her planetary dance, we find she has beguiled us but left us none the wiser,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission. “We expected to be surprised; we did not expect to be this puzzled.”
The biggest puzzle has to be the bright spots on the top half of Ceres. What are they? Is it ice? A different surface material? Scientists aren’t sure. But, they won’t be waiting much longer to see it in a greater detail.
Dawn will enter orbit around Ceres on March 6. During its orbiting phase, Dawn will image Ceres at an altitude of 920 miles above the dwarf planet’s surface. At its closest orbit, Dawn will be just 233 miles away from Ceres. During this period, it will determine what kinds of elements are on and near the surface of Ceres.
At its closest approach, Dawn’s pictures will be 800 times better than the Hubble’s image (pictured below).
Those bright spots might be puzzling now, but soon scientists will have incredibly detailed images of them and all of Ceres.
Image credits: NASA