Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid line between the planets Mars and Jupiter and the new images were taken from a distance of approximately 238,000 miles by the Dawn spacecraft on January 13.
Ceres has a diameter of approximately 590 miles and NASA described it as being as large as the state of Texas.
Marc Rayman, the chief engineer of the Dawn spacecraft and the director of the new mission, said stated that astronomers known a many things about the solar system, yet little is known about the dwarf planet that is Ceres. Rayman explained that the new Dawn mission will change that.
In 2003 and 2004 NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope took the best pictures of Ceres. The new images are not at a very high resolution, taken at about 80% of the previous images’ resolution.
But NASA believes that the future pictures of the planet Ceres will be better than the ones taken more than a decade ago. The scientists expect for another opportunity of photographing the dwarf planet at the end of January.
The Dawn spacecraft was launched for the first time back in 2007 and scientists expect it to enter the orbit of Ceres around the sixth of March. This would be Dawn’s first time entering the dwarf’s planet orbit.
For a long time, astronomers believe that the surface of Ceres contains large areas of ice and even an ocean. Also, scientists have found traces of water vapor on the dwarf planet.
Scientists are hoping that the new mission of the Dawn spacecraft will bring new information on the theories regarding the existence of oceans on Ceres.
Chris Russell, one of Dawn’s main investigator, says that he is very excited to see what mysteries will the new mission unravel.
Ceres is considered to be in the same category with other dwarf planets, such as Pluto.
This will be the second destination of Dawn, after studying Vesta, the second largest planet in the asteroid belt.
Image Source: sciencedaily