NASA’s Dawn Probe Sent Some Stunning New Images of Ceres

Occator Crater at a distance of 920 miles (1,480 km). (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Occator Crater at a distance of 920 miles (1,480 km). (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Swooping by at a unique angle, NASA’s Dawn space probe recently captured some of the clearest views yet of dwarf planet Ceres, including Occator Crater and its intriguing bright surface features.

Dawn’s latest orbit, its fifth since arriving at Ceres in the spring of 2015, took it to within 920 miles (1,480 km) of the dwarf planet, and at an angle where the sun’s position was different than during previous orbits. The new images are offering fresh perspectives of this remarkable object and the strange geology responsible for its distinct surface features.

Occator Crater. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Occator Crater. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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One of the brightest areas on Ceres can be found within Occator Crater, a hole measuring 57 miles (92 km) wide and 2.5 miles (4 km) deep. Astronomers believe that the bright material at the center of this crater is made up of salts left behind after briny liquid seeped up from below, froze, and then sublimated, meaning it turned directly from solid ice into vapor. An asteroid impact likely triggered the upwelling of the salty liquid.

During the month of October, Dawn snapped thousands of images of Ceres at its 920-mile orbit, many of which can be seen in this new NASA gallery.

NASA’s Dawn took this image on Oct. 17 showing the limb of dwarf planet Ceres shows a section of the northern hemisphere. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
NASA’s Dawn took this image on Oct. 17 showing the limb of dwarf planet Ceres shows a section of the northern hemisphere. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Stunning image of Zadeni Crater on Ceres. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Stunning image of Zadeni Crater on Ceres. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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The craters Takel and Cozobi are featured in this image. Takel is the young crater with bright material on the left of this image, and Cozobi is the sharply defined crater just below center.  (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
The craters Takel and Cozobi are featured in this image. Takel is the young crater with bright material on the left of this image, and Cozobi is the sharply defined crater just below center. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
A series of linear features, which are depressions that are located within the large Yalode Crater. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
A series of linear features, which are depressions that are located within the large Yalode Crater. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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Kupalo Crater, which measures 16 miles (26 kilometers) across and is located at southern mid-latitudes. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Kupalo Crater, which measures 16 miles (26 kilometers) across and is located at southern mid-latitudes. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

NASA scientists also released a colorized photo showing what the dwarf planet would actually look like to the human eye. With help from the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, the Dawn team took images from the probe’s initial orbit in 2015, and then calculated the way Ceres reflects different wavelengths of light. It’s not a true color image, but it’s pretty darned close.

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A colorized view of Ceres based on data collected by Dawn. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
A colorized view of Ceres based on data collected by Dawn. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

From here, Dawn will proceed into its sixth orbit of Ceres, attaining an altitude of over 4,500 miles (7,200 km). During this phase, the probe will refine previously collected measurements, particularly those of the surface.

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[NASA]

George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

auntygravity
AuntyGravity

No and no. Those “craters” are demonstrably NOT “impact craters.” Just the fact that every single one of them is circular _should_ make you ask a question: how could it be that every single “impact” was at a 90 degree angle to the surface? The math on that is clear: it cannot be. There are no “glancing blows” or elongated craters. Those are electrical arc marks, as are the “rills”. It was not an impact that somehow (with no demonstrated mechanism) magically lifted below-surface salts. Electrical charge exchange, arcs, between bodies in space, bodies which are charged, electrically, relative to each other, to the surrounding space, and to the sun from which the electrons that make up the charge come, is what causes virtually all of the surface marking that science has heretofore called “impact craters”. The process of electrical arc marking has been repeatedly demonstrated in the lab. Even the little bumps in the middle of the craters are shown to develop with arc/plasma exchanges, as are the craters-within-craters, which the impact theory does not explain.