June 27, 2019

Astronomy Video Of the Week: Seeking Ceres

Ceres on February 12th, 2015 from 52,000 miles distant

(Credit: NASA/Dawn).

Getting closer…

Fresh off of its exploration of the asteroid 4 Vesta in 2011-2012, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been delivering some pretty mind-blowing images of the largest asteroid of them all: 1 Ceres. Dawn just passed the quarter million mile distant mark from Ceres last month, and is now closer to the worldlet than the Moon is to the Earth. And next week, Dawn will reach another milestone on March 6th, when it becomes the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a second world in the course of its mission. Dawn has achieved this via its revolutionary ion drive propulsion, which gives it a slow but steady push offering an optimal thrust to fuel weight ratio.

We thought this week that it would be neat to check out the rotation of Ceres as it snaps into focus:

Just what are those white patches? Is Ceres another ‘cratered rock,’ or something more? Are there any moons awaiting discovery? 1 Ceres was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi on the first day of the 19th century in 1801, and like Pluto, has enjoyed an on and off status as a planet. 1 Ceres never appears brighter than +6.6th magnitude as seen from the Earth, and has been a star like point in the view of most ground-based telescopes until now. Even Hubble’s best views of Ceres revealed little more than a distant tantalizing blob. About 590 miles in diameter, 1 Ceres has a mass of less than 2% of our Moon and rotates on its axis once every nine hours. Orbiting Ceres will be the final home for Dawn, as this tiny corner of the solar system gets crossed off the list of terra incognita worlds soon.

Let the exploration of Ceres begin!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] gaving us the first stunning images of the ~900 kilometre diameter world. But whether you refer to Ceres as a dwarf planet, minor planet, or the king of the asteroid belt, this corner of the solar [...]

  2. [...] us the first stunning images of the ~900 kilometre diameter world. But whether you refer to Ceres as a dwarf planet, minor planet, or the king of the asteroid belt, this corner of the solar [...]

  3. [...] gaving us the first stunning images of the ~900 kilometre diameter world. But whether you refer to Ceres as a dwarf planet, minor planet, or the king of the asteroid belt, this corner of the solar [...]

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