Monday, February 16, 2015

Dawn Spacecraft

The Dawn spacecraft is a NASA mission with the goal of closely studying two large asteroids in the asteroid belt:  Vesta and Ceres.  Dawn launched in 2007 and completed its observations of Vesta a couple of years ago.  Since then it has been on its way to Ceres, the largest known asteroid and officially one of the handful of dwarf planets in our Solar System.  Dawn is expected to arrive at Ceres in a few weeks on March 6, 2015.  Dawn will not land on Ceres, but will orbit it and eventually become a permanent satellite of Ceres after the mission ends later this year.

One of the interesting things observed on the surface of Ceres is a large white spot, seen below.

As Dawn has gotten closer to Ceres the image resolution has improved and we're starting to see several white spots on the surface.

What are these white spots?  At the moment no one knows for sure.  They are likely ice depressions/craters of some kind, but we'll know more as Dawn gets closer to Ceres.  In the meantime, enjoy the images as they come in and be sure to show your kids.  For more information, check out NASA's page on Dawn.

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