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 http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov.

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

 

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