What Are The Sparkly Spots On Ceres?

The “Dawn” spacecraft has finished downloading the navigation images, and has now begun systematic imaging of Ceres from a circular 13,500 KM polar orbit.

This animated sequence of images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows northern terrain on the sunlit side of dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn took these images on April 14 and 15 from a vantage point 14,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) above Ceres’ northern hemisphere. The spacecraft was settling into its first circular orbit, called RC3 (for “rotation characterization 3”), which it will begin on April 23. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

These images were captured a week ago—it takes a while to transmit them back, and to process the data. A reminder of the magnitude of the enterprise: this is pretty far away from home. The fact that the software is still working after years untended is amazing.

So far, Ceres is not an especially photogenic destination. The main point of interest so far are the mysterious “bright spots”, visible in this week’s images. It isn’t known what they are, so we’ll all be looking to the upcoming observations for more clues.

Speaking of huge undertakings, we commenmorating the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope.  Though now superceded by technical advances, this has been one of the most significant scientific instruments ever.

And, by the way, there are gazoogabytes of data from Hubble available for anyone who wants it. E.g., start with the Hubble Legacy Archive.  (Astronomers are some of the original and most consistent practitioners of true Open Data policies.


Space Saturday

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