As the Dawn spacecraft swoops into a lower orbit, NASA has released a video fly-by of the dwarf planet Ceres.
The video is based on data from more than 80 images captured by Dawn’s cameras. Some of the measurements for the image were taken from data sent back during Dawn’s original orbit distance of 13,600km. More recent data came as Dawn moved within 5100km.
Ceres abides in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The spacecraft began a further descent to it on June 3 and is now down to 4400km in an orbit that takes it around Ceres in just over three days.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin is responsible for capturing and processing the images. Team member Ralf Jaumann said the 3D model you see in the video has its vertical dimensions exaggerated by a factor of two.
(They also added the stars in the background.)
“They will become increasingly detailed as the mission progresses — with each additional orbit bringing us closer to the surface,” Jaumann said.
Most of the interest from both public and science circles alike lies in Dawn’s getting ever closer to these “bright spots” in one crater estimated to be 92km wide:
As fine detail becomes visible, it’s looking like they are not two enormous spots, but many smaller spots of water ice.
Here’s the full fly-by:
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