Category Archives: Dawn

Fly Overs

There are two, first New Horizons over Pluto:

And second, a flyover of Charon:

NASA (via YouTube) – Using actual New Horizons data and digital elevation models of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, mission scientists have created flyover movies that offer spectacular new perspectives of the many unusual features that were discovered and which have reshaped our views of the Pluto system – from a vantage point even closer than the spacecraft itself.

Ceres at Opposition

Ceres diameter:  945 km / 587 miles.  Ceres is estimated to contain almost a third of mass of the entire asteroid belt.  Those movies with the spaceship having to do thrilling flying to get through the asteroid belt are far from being accurate.

NASA – This enhanced color image of Ceres’ surface was made from data obtained on April 29, 2017, when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was exactly between the sun and Ceres. Dawn’s framing cameras took images of Ceres with a clear filter as well as five different color filters.

Images combining these different color filter perspectives reveal fine details of Ceres’ surface. For example, they emphasize the distinct compositions and textures of the material ejected from craters. The brightest region on Ceres, called Cerealia Facula, is highlighted in Occator Crater in the center of this image. Vinalia Faculae, the set of secondary bright spots in the same crater, are located to the right of Cerealia Facula.

One of the darkest regions on Ceres is next to Occator, and represents ejected material from the impact that formed the crater. The ejected material forms a large arc that extends over several hundred kilometers, below the center of Ceres in this image. That material’s distribution is partly determined by Ceres’ rotation.

Other craters also show a mixture of bright and dark regions. While the bright areas are generally identified as salt-rich material excavated from Ceres’ crust, the origin of the dark material remains to be explained. It may have been excavated from a different layer within Ceres’ subsurface than the rest of the ejecta blanket. Scientists will continue analyzing the color data to look for clues about the nature of the different materials on Ceres.

The blueish color is generally found in association with young craters. Scientists believe the color relates to processes that occur when an impact ejects and redistributes material on the surface. The continuous bombardment of Ceres’ surface by micrometeorites alters the texture of the exposed material, leading to its reddening.

This image was taken altitude of about 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers). See the Dawn Journal for more detail about this opposition observation.

For more information about the Dawn mission, visit

Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA


NavCam View of Ceres

A very nice look at Ceres from Dawn’s NAVCAM. The bright spot in Occator Crater at the top of the image.

The Dawn spacecraft is moving to a new orbit 20,000 km / 12,400 miles above Ceres, this image was taken on 28 March 2017 at a distance of 48,300 km / 30,000 miles. Dawn should be in place by the end of the month.

From NASA:
Several familiar features can be identified: At the top, we see Occator Crater and its faculae (bright deposits identified as a mixture of sodium carbonate and other salts). Below center is the crater Urvara, and to the right of it, the larger crater Yalode (the third and second largest craters on Ceres, respectively). Large-scale faults called Samhain Catenae stretch from the Occator region toward the Yalode-Urvara region.

This map can be used to locate these and more features. (Link goes off-site, use your back button to return)



Dawn’s Look at Ceres

The Dawn spacecraft returned this very nice image of the dwarf planet Ceres. It features Occator Crater and Ahuna Mons.

Ahuna Mons is the tallest mountain on Ceres, some 4 km / 2.5 miles high, it is visible on the right limb of the planet. Occator Crater is hard to miss with the bright evaporite deposits at the crater’s center and along the floor.

According to NASA both features are relatively young, share a similar composition — different from Ceres’ average composition — and hint at recent internal activity in the dwarf planet. Cere’s is a mysterious place.

Dawn took this image during its third extended-mission science orbit (XMO3), from a distance of about 4,700 miles (7,500 kilometers) above the surface of Ceres. The image resolution is about 2,300 feet (700 meters) per pixel.


Fly Over Occator

Thanks the the Dawn spacecraft we can take a “fly-over” of Occator crater on the dwarf-planet Ceres. The bight areas are may have been produced by upwelling of salt-rich liquids after the impact that formed the crater.

The animation was produced by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Original music by Stefan Elgner, DLR.

Video – JPL / NASA

Yalode Crater


It’s all about perspective.

Original caption:
Sunlit cliffs tower above Yalode Crater on Ceres in this shadowy perspective view. At 152 miles (260 kilometers) in diameter, Yalode is one of Ceres’ largest craters. A fissure called Nar Sulcus is seen just right of center.

Dawn took this image on Oct. 19, 2016, from its second extended-mission science orbit (XMO2), at a distance of about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers) above the surface. The image resolution is about 460 feet (140 meters) per pixel.

A different view of Yalode, taken almost exactly one year prior, can be seen by clicking the image.


Ceres in Color


Great look at Ceres, click the image to see a larger version.

This view of Ceres, produced by the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, combines images taken during Dawn’s first science orbit in 2015 using the framing camera’s red, green and blue spectral filters. The color was calculated using a reflectance spectrum, which is based on the way that Ceres reflects different wavelengths of light and the solar wavelengths that illuminate Ceres. — NASA


Occator Crater Viewed Again


The Dawn spacecraft is still orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres and delivering great results.  This view of Occator Crater was taken on 18 October 2016 and highlights the area around the bright salt exposures.

From NASA/Dawn:

This image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows Occator Crater on Ceres, with its signature bright areas. Dawn scientists have found that the central bright spot, which harbors the brightest material on Ceres, contains a variety of salts. The brightest parts of these features are overexposed in this image, which had an exposure time intended to capture details in the surrounding terrain. Shorter exposures allow details within the brightest areas to be seen, as in PIA20653.

Dawn took this image on Oct. 18, 2016, from its second extended-mission science orbit (XMO2), at a distance of about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers) above the surface. The image resolution is about 460 feet (140 meters) per pixel.



What Would Giuseppe Think?


This is an image of Ceres taken by the Dawn spacecraft taken on 13 June 2016.

Great image! Funny think was my very first thought was what would Giuseppe think.

Giuseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres on 1801.

From his journal:
The light was a little faint, and of the colour of Jupiter, but similar to many others which generally are reckoned of the eighth magnitude. Therefore I had no doubt of its being any other than a fixed star. In the evening of the second I repeated my observations, and having found that it did not correspond either in time or in distance from the zenith with the former observation, I began to entertain some doubts of its accuracy. I conceived afterwards a great suspicion that it might be a new star. The evening of the third, my suspicion was converted into certainty, being assured it was not a fixed star. Nevertheless before I made it known, I waited till the evening of the fourth, when I had the satisfaction to see it had moved at the same rate as on the preceding days.

About Guuseppe Piazzi and the discovery of Ceres and more.