Ceres Up Close

It’s mapping orbit #4 for the Dawn spacecraft as it orbits the dwarf planet Ceres.  Currently mapping at an altitude of only 385 Km, the images are stunning, and give a feeling of actually being on Ceres.  I can imagine the terrain, being in a crater, seeing the dark horizon off in the distance, the rocky-ice world untouched for Billions of years.

This image of Ceres was taken in Dawn’s low-altitude mapping orbit around a crater chain called Gerber Catena. A 3-D view is also available. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

It really reminds me of the Moon, with the powdery bright dust across the surface and craters dotting the landscape, yet when I see some of the close up craters, it feels very different from our familiar moon.  Here are some of the better images from the third mapping run at an altitude of 940 Km.

Urvara Crater. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Icy Walled craters seem almost metallic. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

As the spacecraft works its way into the new year, it will continue with mapping orbits and other science operations while the engineering team ensures that it maintains correct orbits and remains in good health through completion of the main mission.


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