Dawn Survey Orbit Image 12
showing dwarf planet Ceres from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, taken June 7, 2015 from an altitude of 4,400 km (2,700 mi). Image resolution: 410 m (1,400 ft) per pixel. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
The Dawn mission is imaging dwarf planet Ceres from its survey orbit at an altitude of 4,400 km (2,700 mi) – Dawn achieved this orbit on June 3, 2015. More surface features have resolved themselves: a tall mountain, rills, smaller craters, and several light colored areas. The “mysterious white spots” have revealed themselves to be a set of multiple spots, but continue to vex scientists and the public alike.
NASA opened the World Ceres vote to the public, asking what you thought the spots were; I think they are ices revealed by recent impacts. We’ll have to wait until Dawn gets even closer to Ceres in its high altitude mapping orbit (HAMO) at a distance of 900 km (1,450 mi). Dawn will start to spiral down to this orbit in early August, and should reach it by mid-October.
Dawn Survey Orbit Image 6
showing a 5 km (3 mi) tall pyramid-shaped mountain. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Dawn Survey Orbit Image 10
showing a side view of the mountain, and a light area. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Dawn Survey Orbit Image 11
showing the “mysterious white spots.” Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
World Ceres vote results. Image credit: NASA
Dawn Survey Orbit Image 5
showing an interesting white area on Ceres. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Dawn’s survey orbit and dwarf planet Ceres at the correct scale – altitude of 4,400 km (2,730 mi). Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Simulation of Dawn orbiting dwarf planet Ceres on June 24, 2015. Credit: NASA Eyes on the Solar System visualization tool.
Read more on Dawn at http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/
and the Dawn Blog: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/journal.asp