According to an official statement released by NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration), earlier today NASA’s Dawn probe reached its first science orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres is the most sizable object in the asteroid belt located between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.
The Dawn probe will remain in an orbit approximately 8,400 miles above the surface until May 9. On May 9 it will alter its position to a lower orbit in order to take higher-resolution images.
The Dawn probe is fresh off of completing the previous part of its mission. Namely, the Dawn probe captured new images of two unidentified bright spots on the surface of Ceres on April 14 and 15 from a distance of 14,000 miles above the north pole of the dwarf planet.
The pictures reveal the pair of bright spots which are in startling contrast to the dwarf planet’s generally gray surface. How these bright spots came to be and what they actually consist of however still remain a mystery despite the pictures and animation.
The various recently recorded images not only show the bright spots but they also show that the dwarf planet’s surface includes many craters. Ceres’ the bright spots, numerous craters and additional topographic features will soon be photographed at an increasingly high resolution as the Dawn probe orbits the dwarf planet.
The probe entered into orbit around Ceres on March 6. It was the first probe to orbit a dwarf planet. Dawn has previously orbited the asteroid Vesta, the second largest object in the asteroid belt, from 2011 to 2012.
The Dawn probe is now also the first spacecraft to ever orbit two heavenly bodies. The data on Ceres and Vesta collected data that will potentially shed some light on the evolution of the solar system.
NASA’s Dawn Probe Reaches First Orbit