The Dawn spacecraft has taken some spectacular images used in a new animation produced by NASA.
Want to know what it’s like to orbit a distant dwarf planet? Now you can, thanks to a new animation produced by NASA of Ceres.
The Dawn spacecraft is tightly circling the giant round asteroid, which captivated astronomers as the spacecraft approached it months ago and helped unravel the mystery of its bright spots. Now, Dawn is whipping around Ceres just 240 miles above its moon-like surface, and providing images that we’ve never seen before of the dwarf planet, according to a Christian Science Monitor report.
The video is an animation and not an actual video of the surface, but it presents an accurate representation of the surface based on images provided by Dawn and allows users to see what it would be like to orbit Ceres and view its interesting topographical features, such as teh mountain Ahuna Mons and the huge crater Occator. You can also check out the bright spots on its surface, which scientists believe are likely salt deposits that were reflecting sunlight.
The crater types on Ceres are actually quite varied, and this video show just how much so. The viewer can see that Occator has steep, sheer walls, while Dantu and Yalode are much more flat.
Dawn arrived at Ceres all the way back in March and is the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet.
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that sits between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and it is believed to make up a third of the mass of the entire asteroid belt. It has a diameter of about 587 miles, and is composed of rock and ice. It is also the only object in the asteroid belt that has a rounded shape like a planet.
Ceres is difficult to see from Earth, as it has an apparent magnitude of just 6.7 to 9.3, making it almost impossible to see with the naked eye in even the most favorable conditions. It was first thought to be a planet when it was discovered in 1801, but was reclassified as an asteroid in the 1850s.