Dawn Takes Up Close Look At Ceres Bright Spots

As the largest of the asteroid belt objects, Ceres is fascinating astronomers at NASA as the Dawn spacecraft’s travel takes it in for an up close look at the mysterious Ceres bright spots sighted on the surface. Scientists are speculating that the mysterious Ceres bright spots seen by Dawn are formed by a series of lesser-sized spots that are inside of a huge crater on the surface. They believe that the reason the spots are so bright is likely due to the sun reflecting off planetary ice deposits.

Ceres Bright Spots Get a Second Look on June 6

The Dawn spacecraft will travel closer to the planet surface starting June 6 and go into another mapping cycle of orbit around Ceres. During this time, it will get another chance to get more photos that may help identify the Ceres bright spots that are causing such excitement amongst the astronomers and other NASA personnel. Dawn will travel a mere 2,700 miles from Ceres’ surface, which is three times closer than the current angle of the photos of Ceres bright spots. This means the craft should be able to get clearer and closer up pictures to help determine the mysteries of these strange bright spots. So far, the Dawn spacecraft has mapped Ceres for about 15 days, but has been in orbit around Ceres since March 2015.

Dawn Successful at Other Asteroid Mapping Missions

Since Dawn started its space mission in September 2007, it has been very successful in gathering photos and other study material for NASA to learn about the objects in the asteroid belt, an area full of debris and various sized pieces of planetary materials and proto planets such as Ceres is considered to be.

The spacecraft is run by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory with NASA, under collaboration with three other space agencies of the countries Netherlands, Italy and Germany, and is the first of its kind to go into space to study and visit planetary bodies in the asteroid belt. Dawn has allowed research on not only Ceres, but also another proto planet in the asteroid belt called Vesta. It studied Vesta in July 2011 and continued that part of its mission for 14 months, gathering much new information as it made its travel around it. With this travel around Ceres, Dawn is helping scientists discover new and exciting things such as the Ceres bright spots, as well as help them to better understand other facts about these small proto planets.