Occator crater seen by dawn

There’s no such thing as a bad space image, but lighting can take an area we’ve already seen and make it better. During Dawn’s fifth science orbit, the probe flew 920 miles above the scarred surface of Ceres. The angle of the sun was different from previous orbits and gave us a different look at the dwarf planet’s most prominent features.

Occator Crater’s bright spots still shine in the latest set of images.

Occator crater different angle

I love this image. It has an alien feel to it that images taken from directly above just don’t give. Maybe it’s the visible limb or the way the shadows plunge parts of Ceres into darkness.

Did You Know: Dawn sits about 178 million miles from Earth. That means it takes 32 minutes for a radio signal to make a round trip.

Here’s how Ceres would appear if we were sitting atop Dawn.

Ceres color

“The color was calculated using a reflectance spectrum, which is based on the way that Ceres reflects different wavelengths of light and the solar wavelengths that illuminate Ceres,” says NASA.

Zadeni crater

Zadeni Crater measures nearly 80 miles and diameter and sits in Ceres’ southern-hemisphere. Its name is a reference to an ancient Georgian god of bountiful harvest. All of Ceres’ craters are named after agricultural deities. The rest of Ceres’ surface features (like mountains and plains) are named after agricultural festivals.

Ghanan crater

You can see a flow feature in Ghanan Crater above. The small cluster of craters near the top can give scientists an idea of how old the flow feature is. Scientists believe it was created after a portion of the crater rim collapsed, and material flowed across it.

Kupalo crater

That’s Kupalo Crater and was captured as Dawn flew just 240 miles above Ceres’ surface in June.

Check out Dawn’s gallery for new images as the team adds them.

What’s next for Dawn?

All systems are still in the green as Dawn is about to enter the sixth month of its extended mission phase. The probe is firing its ion engines to reach an orbit more than 4,500 miles away from Ceres. On November 18th, Dawn was cruising 1,750 miles from Ceres. The probe should be nestled in its next orbit by early December.

Here, Dawn will refine many of its previous measurements. Using the probe’s gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, Dawn’s team will filter out the “noise” in the measurements making them much more precise.


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