The Dawn spacecraft continues to slowly emerge from the dark side of Ceres; the Dawn mission team promises new images next week.
The mission team mentions that there is currently only a sliver of Ceres visible to Dawn. Not able to contain my desire to see what Dawn is currently seeing any longer, I fired up the NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System app, and generated the following images:
Simulated images of Dawn and Ceres from NASA Eyes on the Solar System.
The top and bottom images are shown in natural lighting – it’s pretty dark out there! The second image highlights shadows, the third image was “floodlight” mode, or what I like to call “nearby supernova mode.” The bottom image shows a magnified view of what Ceres would look like from Dawn’s perspective on April 11, 2015 at 8:00 AM EST.
Dawn will perform its “optical navigation 7” procedure on April 14. 2015, entering into its circular RC3 orbit at 13,500 km (8,400 mi) from Ceres shortly thereafter.
Dawn’s final swoop down to RC3 orbit. The sun is off the figure far to the left, and Ceres’ north pole points up. The farther Dawn is to the right side of Ceres here, the smaller a crescent it sees, because the illumination is from the left. The white circles are at one-day intervals. The trajectory is solid where Dawn is thrusting with its ion engine, which is most of the time. The labels show four optical navigation sessions, where it pauses to turn, point at Ceres, conduct the indicated observation, turn to point its main antenna to Earth, transmit its findings, turn back to the orientation needed for thrusting, and then restart the ion engine. Dawn was captured into orbit on March 6. Note the periods on the right side of the figure between OpNav 5 (on March 1) and OpNav 6 (on April 10) when Dawn pauses thrusting for telecommunications and radio navigation but does not take pictures because it would have to point its instruments too close to the sun. Apodemeter is the Dawn team’s word for the highest altitude in orbit, in analogy with the more common term apogee, which applies for Earth orbits. (Demeter is the Greek counterpart of the Roman goddess Ceres.) Dawn was at its apodemeter of 46,800 miles (75,400 kilometers) on March 18. For more on Dawn’s approach trajectory, see the overall description and figures from other perspectives in November (including the motion into and out of this flat depiction), further details (including the OpNavs) in February and an animation in March. Credit: NASA/JPL