Strange Bright Spots Beckon as Dawn Closes in on Ceres

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is just a few days away from getting snagged by the pull of Ceres, a dwarf planet existing amongst the asteroids. As it’s approaching via the slow but steady thrust of its ion engines Dawn is getting better and better images of Ceres, bringing the world’s features into focus. But on Friday, March 6 (at 7:20 a.m….

Latest Images of Ceres Show Its Bright Spot Is Actually Twins!

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…

Hello, Ceres! Dwarf Planet’s Features Come Into Focus

Won’t you look at that! Here’s a view of Ceres captured by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on Feb. 12, 2015, from a distance of about 52,000 miles (83,000 km). No longer just a grey sphere with some vague bright spots, actual features can now be resolved – craters, mountains, and scarps that quite literally no one has ever…

Dawn Captures the Bestest Images Ever of “Hipster Planet” Ceres

This is the second animation from Dawn this year showing Ceres rotating, and at 43 pixels across the images are officially the best ever obtained! NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is now on final approach to the 590-mile-wide dwarf planet Ceres, the largest world in the main asteroid belt and the biggest object in the inner Solar System that has yet to…

Hello, Ceres! Dawn Returns Images of Dwarf Planet Spinning

Wow, check this out! The 590-mile-wide dwarf planet Ceres is seen rotating in this GIF animation made from the latest images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, taken over the course of an hour on January 13, 2015. Dawn was 238,000 miles (383,000 km) from Ceres when the images were taken, and although only 27 pixels across…

Find Out How “Crazy Engineering” Is Getting Dawn to Ceres

Remember Dawn, the spacecraft that showed us our first close-up images of asteroid/protoplanet Vesta when it entered orbit back in 2011? Well Dawn is still going strong, having left Vesta behind and now closing in on its next target: Ceres, a full-fledged dwarf planet and, at about 600 miles (965 km) wide, the largest object in the main asteroid belt. Once…

A Ceres of Surprises: the Largest Asteroid is a Water World

By now you must know about the jets of ice particles blasting out of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and maybe have even heard about the recent discovery of water vapor issuing forth from Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa. But now we know of another spray-happy world out there: Ceres, which at 591 miles across is our solar…

Vesta’s Formation History? It’s Complicated.

Just when scientists thought they had a tidy theory for how the giant asteroid Vesta formed, a new paper from NASA’s Dawn mission suggests the history is more complicated. If Vesta’s formation had followed the script for the formation of rocky planets like our own, heat from the interior would have created distinct, separated layers…

Dawn Makes an Elemental Discovery on Vesta

In what could be called a “eureka” moment for Dawn researchers and planetary scientists alike, hydrogen has been found on the surface of Vesta, a 550-km (340-mile) -wide protoplanet and the second most massive world in our Solar System’s main asteroid belt. The elemental discovery was made with the Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND)…

An Asteroid’s Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat

Vesta — the asteroid that was almost a planet — has its complex surface composition revealed in this animation made from images acquired by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. The video reveals the dappled, variegated surface of the giant asteroid Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt. The animation drapes high-resolution false color…

The Surface of an Asteroid

Bright craters, dark craters… craters shaped like butterflies… they’re all represented here in a panorama made from images acquired by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, currently orbiting the 330-mile-wide asteroid Vesta. I stitched two images together (using a third for gap fill-in) that were originally acquired by Dawn’s framing camera in October 2011 and released last week. This shows…

A Daily Dose of Dawn

Here’s a gorgeous view from the International Space Station, taken by the Expedition 30 crew on Feb. 4, 2012 as the station passed into orbital dawn. The greens and reds of the aurora borealis shimmer above Earth’s limb beyond the Station’s solar panels as city lights shine beneath a layer of clouds. Read the rest…