Dawn Starts Steep Descent to Most Dazzling Orbit of Ceres

This mosaic shows Ceres' Occator crater and surrounding terrain from an altitude of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers), as seen by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Occator is about 60 miles (90 kilometers) across and 2 miles (4 kilometers) deep.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

This mosaic shows Ceres’ Occator crater and surrounding terrain from an altitude of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers), as seen by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Occator is about 60 miles (90 kilometers) across and 2 miles (4 kilometers) deep. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The most dazzling views ever seen of dwarf planet Ceres and its mysterious bright spots are what’s on tap by year’s end as NASA’s amazing Dawn spacecraft starts a gradual but steep descent over the next two months to its lowest and final orbit around the bizarre icy body.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) successfully fired up the probes exotic ion propulsion system to begin lowering Dawn’s orbital altitude to less than a quarter of what it has been for the past two months of intense mapping operations.

On Oct. 23, Dawn began a seven week descent that uses (…)
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© Ken Kremer for Universe Today, 2015. |
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