Dawn: New images of Ceres

New images of Ceres show several bright spots on its surface and an impressive crater with a central mountain.

February 05, 2015

Looking at a Ceres quarter-turn

On 4 February 2015 the camera system on board NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was able to monitor a fourth of the rotation of dwarf planet Ceres around its own axis. For this movie, a map was derived from the camera data and projected onto an ellipsoid with Ceres’ dimensions. Dawn is currently approaching dwarf planet Ceres and will enter into an orbit early in March. The latest images were obtained from a distance of 145 000 kilometers. Previous images had revealed only a smaller part of its target’s surface.

In addition to the striking brighter spot on Ceres’ northern hemisphere, that had already appeared in images taken on 13 and 25 January 2015, one can now discern additional similar features. However, all these regions are not really bright, but only seem so in comparison to their surroundings. As many bodies in the asteroid belt, Ceres is very dark and reflects only nine percent of the incident sunlight. The bright spots are brighter by approximately 50 percent – and thus as dark as an asphalt surface.

The bright areas at the edge of this representation are artefacts. From these regions there is not yet sufficient data.

A new side of Ceres

This image shows a side of dwarf planet Ceres not previously imaged by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Cere’s surface is covered with several bright spots and impressive craters - some of which feature a central mountain. The picture was taken by the camera system on board Dawn on 4 February 2015 from a distance of 145 000 kilometers.

The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), Washington. It is a project of the Discovery Program, managed for SMD by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. The University of California, Los Angeles, is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., designed and built the Dawn spacecraft. The framing cameras have been developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen, Germany, with significant contributions by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig. The framing camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR, and NASA.

Go to Editor View