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Dawn Mission Extended at Ceres

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:23 pm

NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before at the dwarf planet, which it has been orbiting since March 2015. The spacecraft will continue at Ceres for the remainder of its science investigation and will remain in a stable orbit indefinitely after its hydrazine fuel runs out.

The Dawn flight team is studying ways to maneuver Dawn into a new elliptical orbit, which may take the spacecraft to less than 120 miles (200 kilometers) from the surface of Ceres at closest approach. Previously, Dawn's lowest altitude was 240 miles (385 kilometers).

A priority of the second Ceres mission extension is collecting data with Dawn's gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, which measures the number and energy of gamma rays and neutrons. This information is important for understanding the composition of Ceres' uppermost layer and how much ice it contains.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:25 pm

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

This artist concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:26 pm



Occator Crater on Ceres is home to the brightest area on the entire dwarf planet. At 57 miles (92 kilometers) wide and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, Occator displays evidence of recent geologic activity.

NASA's Dawn mission found that the bright spots may have been produced by upwelling of salt-rich liquids after the impact that formed the crater. Pan and zoom as you fly over the crater with Dawn in this 360-degree animation made with observations from the spacecraft.

 

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