Ceres Seen From NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles (61,000) kilometers from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity at about 4:39 a.m. PST (7:39 a.m. EST) Friday, March 6.
This image of Ceres was taken by the Dawn spacecraft on March 1, just a few days before the mission achieved orbit around the previously unexplored world. The image shows Ceres as a crescent, mostly in shadow because the spacecraft’s trajectory put it on a side of Ceres that faces away from the sun until mid-April. When Dawn emerges from Ceres’ dark side, it will deliver ever-sharper images as it spirals to lower orbits around the planet.
The image was obtained at a distance of about 30,000 miles (about 48,000 kilometers) at a sun-Ceres-spacecraft angle, or phase angle, of 123 degrees. Image scale on Ceres is 1.9 miles (2.9 kilometers) per pixel. Ceres has an average diameter of about 590 miles (950 kilometers).
Dawn’s mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The University of California, Los Angeles, is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of acknowledgments, http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission.