The Dawn spacecraft is a few weeks away from being captured into orbit around Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter. As the spacecraft inches nearer, its latest images of the dwarf planet show that it is filled with craters and mysterious bright spots.

Taken Feb. 12 at a distance of 52,000 miles, these images have a resolution of 4.9 miles per pixel and represent the sharpest views of Ceres to date. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA


"These images, showing significant cratering and unusual bright spots, are just the beginning of a flood of science data that will help the science team understand the nature and composition of Ceres," said Joe Makowski, Dawn Phase E Program Manager. "By comparing similar information gathered from Dawn’s first stop on this mission, a 14-month examination of Vesta, scientists will be able to better understand how some solar system bodies developed almost dry, while others have retained substantial water."

Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group designed and built Dawn in our Dulles, Va. Facilities. Dawn’s mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Other mission partners include the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research/German space agency (MPS/DLR) and the Italian space agency/National Institute for Astrophysics (ASI/INAF).