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Thursday, January 22, 2015

New views of dwarf planet Ceres released by NASA

This processed image, taken Jan. 13, 2015,
shows the dwarf planet Ceres as seen
from the Dawn spacecraft.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
RT | Jan 22, 2015

Impressive new images of the dwarf planet Ceres, captured by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, have revealed crater-like structures on the frozen, icy surface. The images arrived as the probe became due to enter Ceres’ orbit.

The images will help the Dawn spacecraft as it navigates its way towards Ceres. It is scheduled to enter the dwarf planet’s orbit around March 6 to begin a 16-month study.

Dawn’s arrival at Ceres will mark the first time a spacecraft has visited the planet, and the probe will able to linger in its orbit for in-depth exploration. NASA’s interest in the planet is that its surface contains vast portions of ice, and the agency has previously detected water vapor – a potential signal that Ceres may harbor life.

We know so much about the solar system and yet so little about … Ceres. Now, Dawn is about to change that,” Mark Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, said in a release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Ceres apparently formed far enough from the sun under conditions cool enough for it to hang on to water molecules. Indeed, scientists have good reason to believe that water (mostly in the form of ice) may make up an astonishing 30 percent of its mass. Ceres may contain more water than Mars or any other body in the inner solar system except Earth,” Rayman wrote in his NASA dawnblog.  

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