The Dawn spacecraft continues to perform flawlessly in its new orbit around Ceres and is revealing new details about the dwarf planet.
Now orbiting 915 miles above the surface (1,470 kilometers), Dawn takes 11 days to capture and return images. Each 11-day cycle features 14 orbits and during the next two months the craft will map the entire surface of Ceres six times.
The spacecraft is using its framing camera to map the surface, which is enabling 3-D modeling. Every image from this orbit has a resolution of 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel, and covers less than 1 percent of the surface.
At the same time, Dawn’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer is collecting data that will give scientists a better understanding of the minerals found on Ceres’ surface.
Engineers and scientists will also refine their measurements of Ceres’ gravity field, which will help mission planners in designing Dawn’s next orbit – its lowest – as well as the journey to get there. In late October, Dawn will begin spiraling toward this final orbit, which will be at an attitude of 230 miles (375 kilometers).
Dawn is the first mission to visit a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two distinct solar system targets. It orbited protoplanet Vesta for 14 months in 2001 and 2012. It arrived at Ceres on March 5, 2015.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California is managing the Dawn Mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.