NASA presented images of the dwarf planet Ceres

Enlarge Image This mosaic shows a prominent mound on the western side of Cerealia Facula.                  NASA  JPL-Caltech  UCLA  MPS  DLR  IDA

"Don is like a master artist, who is adding rich details to the beauty of the other world in his close picture of Ceres". By carrying out this maneuver, the probe flew closer to the dwarf planet's Cerealia Facula. Landslides are clearly visible on the rim.

The first photo, taken on June 14 from an altitude of about 24 miles (39 kilometers) above Ceres, showcases the group of bright spots located east of Occator Crater and collectively known as Vinalia Faculae. This latest mission, the second one exploring the cosmic neighborhood of the dwarf planet, has brought Dawn within 22 miles (35 kilometers) from its surface.

At the beginning of last month, Don set his way around a new orbit around Ceres, an oval path that only checks out the dwarf planet within only 21 miles (34 kilometers) of the planet.

The Dawn spacecraft ("Dawn"), launched to study the asteroid Vesta and the planet Ceres in the asteroid belt, was sent to earth close-UPS of the dwarf planet. While the name might not ring a bell even among space enthusiasts, the "bright spots" contained within the crater should.

Scientists believe that this material was left behind when the salt water was boiled in space.

NASA's Dawn mission blasted off into space on September 27, 2007, with the goal of learning about the early makeup of the solar system. The new orbit allowed the spacecraft to get a sharper image of Ceres's weird bright spots at the Occator crater.

Were they made of water ice, and if so, what would that mean about the formation and interior of Ceres?

Whichever it is, this evaporation or sublimation is likely an ongoing process, as images from the mission have revealed a very fine haze or fog lingering along the base of Occator crater at times.

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The spacecraft will remain in orbit around Ceres when it runs out of fuel, but Dawn will end its mission because it will no longer able to point its solar arrays toward the sun, or aim its antenna toward Earth.

Scientists hope that the images taken by the probe in low orbit, the neutron and gamma spectrum and in the visible and infrared, will shed light on the origin of the materials found on the surface of Ceres.

"The first views of Ceres obtained by Dawn beckoned us with a single, blinding bright spot", she said.

Before its recent descent, the closest Dawn had traveled to Ceres was 240 miles (385 kilometers).

The complete catalog of images taken by Dawn from its new orbit is also available online.

The Dawn mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Dawn was instructed to fire its ion engine-for what could be the last time-last week. "While the extension of Dawn in ceras, it has been exciting to highlight the nature and history of this fascinating dwarf planet, and it is particularly appropriate that Don's final work will provide rich new data sets to test those principles".

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