Looking Good Ceres. Dawn Spacecraft Nears Dwarf Planet
Ceres dwarf planet

Every day NASA’s Dawn spacecraft gets closer to the dwarf planet Ceres. As the distance closes, Dawn is giving us even better pictures of the largest asteroid belt object.

The animation below comes from a series of images the Dawn spacecraft took on Wednesday. At the time, the spacecraft was nearly 90,000 miles away from the dwarf planet.

Ceres animation

The bright feature rotating into view from the top left is visible once again. I can’t wait until we get some detailed images of this feature.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is expected to enter orbit around Ceres in early March. While it is classified as both an asteroid and a dwarf planet, some scientists think it should be given full planet status.

A significant portion of Ceres is believed to be water, mostly as ice. But, there could be lakes or oceans of liquid water beneath its frosty surface. And, there’s evidence to support it. Back in 2014, Europe’s Herschel Space Observatory spotted tiny plumes of water vapor coming from Ceres.

There are several explanations for this. The most intriguing one is that Ceres has some type of internal heat mechanism, such as volcanism. Or, a meteor struck Ceres’ surface and briefly exposed subsurface ice.

Dawn isn’t equipped to look for signs of life. But, it will give scientists an incredibly detailed look of the dwarf planet’s surface. Scientists will be on the lookout for any signs of interaction between subsurface water and ice on the surface.

Check out Dawn’s mission page to learn more about the spacecraft and its mission.

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