Here’s your weekly Ceres update! The dwarf planet’s features are coming into better and better focus for the approaching Dawn spacecraft, which will be captured by Ceres’ gravity on March 6. The image above is yet another “best-ever” of Ceres (as will be each one we see now), captured on Feb. 19, 2015, from a distance of about 29,000 miles (46,000 km).
This was one of a trio of images from Dawn released today. The others can be seen below, including one that shows the intriguing bright spot that has been observed for over a decade.
The image directly above shows the bright spot lies within a crater along with a smaller companion – surprise!
“Ceres’ bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin,”said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission at UCLA. “This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations.”
The bright spot on the 590-mile-wide Ceres was first observed with Hubble in December 2003, when the dwarf planet was imaged 267 times over the course of its 9-hour rotation.
Ceres orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, almost three times as far from the Sun as Earth. Find more news and images from the Dawn mission here.
Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA