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Tuesday, March 3, 2015


CLOSING IN ON CERES--NASA's Dawn spacecraft took these images of dwarf planet Ceres from about 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) away on Feb. 25, 2015. Ceres appears half in shadow because of the current position of the spacecraft relative to the dwarf planet and the sun. The resolution is about 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) per pixel. Dawn is due to be captured into orbit around Ceres on March 6. Dawn's mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

UPDATE: NASA's Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity at about 4:39 a.m. PST Friday, MARCH 6, 2015. Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.
SIMPLY REMARKABLE--Some of us aren’t so jaded as to ignore human exploration of the cosmos.  Like many, I’ll be glued to media reports on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft as it nears Ceres, where this man-made machine will insert itself into orbit around this 600 mile diameter dwarf planet.  This is brilliant stuff.  Given the fact, a mere 50 years ago the acme of space adventure was sending an ape into a brief orbit around Earth.  Now, we’ve been on the moon and produced machines that have photographed the far reaches of our solar system.

Friday, we’ll orbit Ceres, which is the largest object in the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is composed of rock and ice, is 950 km (about 600 miles) in diameter, and contains approximately one third of the mass of the asteroid belt.

Dawn will be the first mission to successfully visit a dwarf planet when it enters orbit around Ceres on Friday, March 6. Recent images show numerous craters and unusual bright spots that scientists believe tell how Ceres, the first object discovered in our solar system’s asteroid belt, formed and whether its surface is changing.

And, what exactly are those light flashes coming from the surface of Ceres?

This is flat out amazing. Cue the applause for NASA.

If you compare the size of Earth and Ceres we’re looking at a ping pong ball next to a basketball.

Here are some other space diameters:
--Earth’s moon is 2,159 miles in diameter
--Earth is 7,926 miles in diameter
--Venus 7.500 miles
--Mercury 3,032
--Mars 4,212.

Named for the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres was discovered by Italian Guiseppe Piazzi in 1801. It was mankind’s first discovery of an asteroid in our solar system.

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