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NASA space probe takes fantastic pics of dwarf planet Ceres’s bright spots

NASA’s space probe Dawn has taken some startling close-up photographs of the dwarf planet Ceres’s bright spots, which is the largest object in the asteroid belt, and lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is composed of rock and ice, is approximately 950 kilometers in diameter, and comprises approximately one third of the mass of the asteroid belt.

 

NASA

This image of Ceres is part of a sequence taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 16, 2015, from a distance of 7,200 kilometres. The bright spots are visible in the lower half of the photograph — Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

An artist’s rendition of the NASA space probe Dawn — Picture credit: NASA

NASA

According to a NASA press release, the Dawn probe arrived at the dwarf planet on March 6, the first time ever that this had been done. Previously, the spacecraft explored giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months from 2011 to 2012. The statement also said that Dawn has the distinction of being the only spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestrial targets.

The spacecraft has been using its ion propulsion system to manoeuvre to its second mapping orbit at Ceres, which it will reach on June 6. The spacecraft will remain at a distance of about 4,400 kilometres from the dwarf planet until June 30. Afterward, it will make its way to lower orbits.

The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.

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