The Dawn probe provided the first detailed images of Ceres from low orbit
Ceres is a dwarf planet orbiting in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is the largest object in the asteroid belt. Last year, NASA announced the discovery of a dam compoundoin carbon-based. New analysis of the data has indicated that there may be much more organic matter on the surface of Ceres than previously thought. For more on this topic, see Organic matter on Ceres may be more abundant than previously thought.
The Dawn probe was launched in 2007. GloThe primary goal of the mission is to study the dwoch largest objectoin the asteroid belt. It is about Ceres and the asteroid Vesta. The probe’s task is to determine the shape ofow, sizeow, mass and composition of these objectsow. Ma roalso determine the size of their nuclei.
Dawn’s orbit of Ceres was found in 2015. Since then, the probe has sent back a mass of valuable information. Amongod them the aforementioned discovery of the compoundoin organic. A few weeks ago, the probe reached its final orbit and is now about 35 kilometersow above the surface of the dwarf planet. Dawn has sent a message to scientistsoIn the first images taken from this distance.
For three years of orbiting wokoł Ceres the probe was at an altitude of 385 kilometersoin above its surface. Data sent from current orbit allows Ceres to be seen in previously unknown detailo³ach.
Thanks to instruments installed aboard the probe, m.In. infrared and visible-light mapping spectrometers, the researchers found sodium carbonate deposits. The material is common in Earth’s sediments. Last week Dawn took photographs of Occator crater, where abundant traces of organic matter were spotted.
The bright spots seen in the photos are brine deposits. Researchers believe that liquid water enriched with salts made its way to the surface from deep inside the dwarf planet through cracks in its surface. However, it is unclear whether its sourceoThe bottom is in a shallow subsurface reservoir, or much deeper.
– Getting these spectacular images was one of the biggest challenges in the Dawn extraterrestrial expedition. DetailsoThe images are exceeding our expectations – Said Marc Rayman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, project manager of the Dawn probe.
With the data sent by the probe, scientists hope to solve the mystery of the origin of organic matter on Ceres. Observations from low orbit will also allow the precise chemical composition of the dwarf planet to be determined.
– Exploring the nature and history of this fascinating dwarf planet together with the Dawn mission is extremely exciting. The data just transmitted will provide a rich harvest ofoin information to test new theories – stated Carol Raymond of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, head of theowny scientist of the Dawn mission.