Colour Map of Ceres and New Images of Pluto!

Tis the season, as they say.  This year is a good one for space missions with the March arrival of the Dawn spacecraft at Ceres and the July fly-by of Pluto by new horizons.  Dawn made history by being the first ever spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet, and new horizons will provide the first ever pictures of the surface of Pluto in unprecedented detail.  I can barely contain my excitement, after having watched the launch of New Horizons live on NASA TV in 2006.  I thought about what life would be like in 2015 and what Pluto would look like, and soon I’m going to find out along with the rest of the world, in a triumph of human ingenuity and technology.

Ceres in colour. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

New images from Ceres are finally here, showing a colour map of the dwarf planet in striking detail. Notice the yellow area right of centre with the super-bright spot in the crater? That’s the suspected icy surface from earlier photos.  The pictures reveal a heavily cratered world with a similar look to the Moon, though smaller.  It’s also estimated that Ceres contains a significant amount of water ice, making up nearly 25% of its total mass.

Over the next few months, starting with the intensive science phase commencing on April 23rd, Dawn will be in low orbit around Ceres at a distance of 13,500 Km from the surface, where it will be able to study the surface in unprecedented detail.

A small blurry capture of Pluto and Charon from 114 Million Km away. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

New Horizons has snapped a quick pic of Pluto from a distance of 114 Million Km, much closer than the Earth at 5 Billion Km.  The spacecraft is rapidly approaching the enigmatic dwarf planet, and better pictures will start to trickle in as we close in on the July rendezvous.

Stay tuned!

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