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Vesta & Ceres, Pluto : Dwarf planets, asteroids, or Stranger still ?

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Vesta & Ceres : Dwarf planets, asteroids, or Stranger still ?


We will learn more as spacecraft approaches


List of Dwarf Planets : http://web.gps.caltech.edu/~mbrown/dps.html




A "Game Changer" on Vesta ??
(skip the first 1-2 minutes of annoying music)
Richard Hoagland is seeing "signs of a type 2 civilization" on Vesta : Deleted Video

possible replacement:

He thinks it shows NASA has changed its game plan, and is willing to reveal something important
/source: http://www.universetoday.com/87783/nasa-unveils-thrilling-first-full-frame-images-of-vesta-from-dawn/


Vesta versus asteroids


/ NASA website- :: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/
/ Google Search :: http://www.google.com/#hl=en&cp=8&gs_id=w&xhr=t&q=vesta+dawn&qe=dmVzdGEgZGE&qesig=8Tqv1KgrLC2F16S3r7LAJA&pkc=AFgZ2tmY3wHNv5aMAcbwSF3Bi1LRkbyySJvRK10_QuDHMYNSf2vjmXVW84uPS0IslkcfN4G02RZEbFcR1ABj_o5qR_zv3EfKNQ&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbo=u&tbm=nws&source=og&sa=N&tab=wn&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=97bbc969ef530459&biw=1269&bih=619

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Dawn Exceeds Wildest Expectations as First Ever Spacecraft to Orbit a Protoplanet – Vesta

by KEN KREMER on JULY 18, 2011

– so say Dawn’s Science Principal Investigator Prof. Chris Russell, Chief Engineer Dr. Marc Rayman (think Scotty !) and NASA’s Planetary Science Director Jim Green in exclusive new interviews with Universe Today.


As you read these words, Dawn is steadily unveiling new Vesta vistas never before seen by a human being – and in ever higher resolution. And it’s only made possible via the revolutionary and exotic ion propulsion thrusters propelling Dawn through space (think Star Trek !). That’s what NASA, science and space exploration are all about.

“Dawn is in orbit, remains in good health and is continuing to perform all of its functions,” Marc Rayman of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., told me. “Indeed, that is how we know it achieved orbit. The confirmation received in a routine communications session that it has continued thrusting is all we needed.”

Image of Vesta Captured by Dawn on July 9, 2011. NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained this image with its framing camera on July 9, 2011. It was taken from a distance of about 26,000 miles (41,000 kilometers) away from the protoplanet Vesta. Each pixel in the image corresponds to roughly 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Dawn entered orbit at about 9900 miles (16000 km) altitude after a nearly 4 year journey of 1.73 billion miles.

Over the next few weeks, the spacecrafts primary task is to gradually spiral down to its initial science operations orbit, approximately 1700 miles above the pock marked surface.

Vesta is the second most massive object in the main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn is the first probe to orbit an object in the Asteroid Belt.

/more: http://www.universetoday.com/87559/dawn-exceeds-wildest-expectations-as-first-ever-spacecraft-to-orbit-a-protoplant-vesta/


Video: NASA's Journey Above Vesta

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Ion-powered Dawn begins study of asteroid Vesta

By: William Harwood AUGUST 1, 2011

Four years after launch from Cape Canaveral, NASA's ion-drive Dawn spacecraft is finally in orbit around the asteroid Vesta, studying the second largest body in the rubble-strewn belt between Mars and Jupiter in unprecedented detail. Pictures released today show a strangely tortured world with huge parallel grooves separating the heavily cratered northern hemisphere from smoother terrain in the south dominated by the chaotic remnants of a catastrophic impact.
"These photos have been already a great revelation to the team about what the surface is like," Christopher Russell, the mission's principal investigator, told reporters today. "We did not imagine the detail we're seeing and the various processes that we're seeing evidence of now. These are really insightful into this building block of the early solar system...It's really a beautiful and exciting small world sitting there in the middle of the asteroid belt that we're going to learn very much about."

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, now in orbit around the asteroid Vesta, is beaming back intriguing photos showing huge equatorial grooves, upper left, separating the heavily-cratered northern hemisphere from smoother terrain in the south, where a catastrophic impact occurred in the distant past.

(Credit: NASA)



Discovered in 1807, Vesta is roughly spherical, measuring about 359 miles by 285 miles. It is the largest member of the asteroid belt yet visited by a robotic spacecraft, second in size only to Ceres, Dawn's next target and, along with Pluto, one of just five known dwarf planets. NASA is spending $466 million to explore Vesta and Ceres during the course of a 10-year mission.

Vesta's surface is believed to be made up of basaltic rock that flowed out of a presumably hot interior when the asteroid formed some 4.5 billion years ago. Because of its small size, the asteroid presumably cooled quickly and did not undergo subsequent resurfacing like larger worlds.
As such, Vesta may have one of the oldest, most pristine surfaces in the solar system, a frozen snapshot of the materials and conditions that existed at the dawn of the solar system.

Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-19514_3-20086575-239/ion-powered-dawn-begins-study-of-asteroid-vesta/#ixzz1VkgtnNGk

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Asteroid Photographer Beams Back Science Data

by Staff Writers

Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 12, 2011



This anaglyph image of Vesta's equator was put together from two clear filter images, taken on July 24, 2011 by the framing camera instrument aboard NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.


The Dawn spacecraft has completed a graceful spiral into the first of four planned science orbits during the spacecraft's yearlong visit to Vesta.


The spacecraft started taking detailed observations on Aug. 11 at 9:13 a.m. PDT (12:13 a.m. EDT), which marks the official start of the first science-collecting orbit phase at Vesta, also known as the survey orbit.


Survey orbit is the initial and highest orbit, at roughly 1700 miles (2700 kilometers) above the surface, which will provide an overview or "big picture" perspective of the giant asteroid.


The primary objective of survey orbit is to image the surface with near-global coverage in visible and infrared wavelengths with the mapping spectrometer, also known as VIR. Dawn also will be using its framing camera to collect image mosaics that complement the VIR spectral data to produce geologic and compositional maps of Vesta's surface.


Ultrasensitive measurements of the spacecraft's motion using radio signals will allow improved understanding of the giant asteroid's gravity field. Dawn's gamma ray and neutron detector will continue to collect background data.


The survey phase is planned to last 20 days. Each orbit takes almost three days, which will provide the spacecraft seven trips around Vesta. After survey orbit, Dawn will resume thrusting, taking about a month to spiral down gently to its next science orbit for an even closer view.


That orbit, known as High Altitude Mapping Orbit, or HAMO, begins in late September. Dawn will spend about a month in HAMO, circling around Vesta in half a day, rather than three. Dawn will orbit more than 60 times during HAMO, allowing the camera to fully map the illuminated portion of Vesta at even higher resolution, and enable the science team to generate stereo images.


/more - Dairy : http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Asteroid_Photographer_Beams_Back_Science_Data_999.html

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"The Snowman" - Aug. 17 / from the NASA website




Cratered Terrain with Hills and Ridges - August 14, 2011


/see: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/image_of_the_day_Aug11.asp

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Can you see a Star ?




"they come in threes"

says Hoagland - thinking there's something else to be seen soon beyond Elinin and Vesta

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At the first sign of life send a hoard of bankers. No planet can function without a fiscal policy.


Edit: Please note I would not have made the above comment if this thread had been on 'Fringe'. Thank you.

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Attended several lectures by Hoagland and David Percy many moons (ahem) ago.


Interesting stuff, but I think they fall firmly into the "decide what you want to see, then try to find it" camp. Hoagland especially was seeing all manner of stuff on Mars that nobody else seems to have noticed, despite having the exact same images. Either everyone else in the world of astronomy is "on message", or Hoagland is, to be charitable, over-enthusiastic. That shouldn't detract from the Dawn project and the NASA images, which are stunning, but the amount of cratering on the surface of Vesta suggests an extremely violent history. Unless he's suggesting some sort of Space 1999 outpost (can't watch the video currently), I can't see how Vesta could support life of any sort, as it simply wouldn't have enough time to develop before it got another lump of rock in the face.

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Just for fun... Here's the Star:


Maybe I should pass it to Richard Hoagland, and see what he can make of it.


At the first sign of life send a hoard of bankers. No planet can function without a fiscal policy.

Edit: Please note I would not have made the above comment if this thread had been on 'Fringe'. Thank you.

I will move this thread to Fringe soon, but I wanted people to be aware of the wonderful images that are coming in from Vesta.


Ceres is next, in a year or so, I suppose

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Visions of Vesta


Published: Monday, August 22, 2011



An acid-etched iron meteorite slice (with inclusion), revealing the characteristic Widmanstatten pattern, indicative of slow cooling and crystallization within iron-nickel cores of larger asteroids (From the meteorite collection at California Polytechnic State University Physics Department.) Photo by Dr. Patrick M. Len



TRAVERSE CITY – As members of the public view asteroid Vesta through the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society’s 25-inch Dobsonian telescope at the Open Space on Aug. 27, Society Secretary Joe Brooks will be waving them over for a look through his microscope.


Brooks owns what some, including organizations that register meteorites, believe is a small piece of Vesta; a 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid located more than a hundred million miles from Earth.


“It’s very unique, not like other meteorites,” Brooks said, describing the composition of the rock he bought on e-Bay six years ago.


According to NASA, Vesta is the brightest and second-most massive asteroid in our solar system’s main asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter. Though just 320 miles in diameter, it is the only asteroid in the belt that can be seen with unaided eyes.


/more: http://www.morningstarpublishing.com/articles/2011/08/22/grand_traverse_insider/life/doc4e52ad3976750416231818.txt

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  • 8 months later...

Huge Asteroid Vesta Actually Is an Ancient Protoplanet




Data from the Dawn spacecraft now reveal that Vesta, as wide as the state of Arizona, is large enough to have had its own internal geologic evolution


By Mike Wall and SPACE.com | May 11, 2012



Comparative imagery of nine asteroids.

With a diameter of about 330 miles (530 kilometers), Vesta dwarfs all of these small bodies.


Many scientists think it's a protoplanet left over from the solar system's first few million years.


New observations from a NASA spacecraft show that the huge asteroid Vesta is a battered protoplanet left over from the solar system's early days, with a unique mix of characteristics unknown from any other space rock.


Scientists had thought that Vesta, the second-largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, probably started down a planet-forming path shortly after the solar system's birth. Data gathered by NASA's Dawn probe have now confirmed that suspicion, researchers announced in a raft of studies that came out today (May 10) in the journal Science.


"We now know that Vesta is the only intact, layered planetary building block surviving from the very earliest days of the solar system," Dawn deputy principal investigator Carol Raymond, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told reporters today.

. . .

When Dawn finishes up at Vesta, it will start the long trek to the dwarf planet Ceres, which is roughly as wide as Texas. The probe is scheduled to reach the "queen of the asteroid belt" in February 2015 and embark upon a whole new round of discoveries.


"We expect that Ceres is a much wetter world" than Vesta, Russell said. But, he added, "we have no meteorites to help us here. Everything will be a surprise."


/more: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=huge-asteroid-vesta-actually-is-an-ancient-protoplanet

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  • 1 year later...

And amusing little video on Ceres - and it anomolies




"Listed as a planet for half a century"

"No new pictures for NINE Years"


As promoted on GLP*: http://www.godlikepr....com/forum1/pg1


A spacecraft will visit there in 2015


=== ===

*Comment from there:



- of Ceres: 975 km

- of Moon: 3476 km

- of Earth: 12.756 km


"Ceres is only a frigid small rock"


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The Dwarfs are in the dance too ...


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  • 1 year later...

March 6, 2015 - NASA Dawn Spacecraft Entered Orbit Around Ceres Today

- The First Human Vehicle to Orbit A Dwarf Planet.


Click on this - to see the Two Bright Spots:

Speeded up VIDEO of rotating Ceres shows bright spots persist
as crater turns into shadow side of dwarf planet seeming

to contradict idea of sunlight reflecting from ice.


Dawn moved into orbit at 7:39 AM EST Friday, March 6, 2015, after its 3-billion-mile journey since 2007. Eventually spiraling down toward the dwarf planet, Dawn will get as close as 235 miles above the surface over the next 16 months of observations. Hopefully by then, the mysterious bright spots will be identified. Ceres, first discovered in 1801 near the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is called a dwarf planet because it is so round, another Ceres mystery.

CeresBrightSpots021915NASAdawnCraft.jpg Ceres2LightsCraterShadow030415.jpg


Left to right: Images from Feb. 19, 2015, video that show the two bright spots in the crater
persist into the shadow side of Ceres, increasing the question about what the two bright
spots are? Video taken
by NASA’s Dawn mission on February 19, 2015, from an altitude
of 28,583 miles (46,000 km), revealed that a previously seen bright spot in a crater
is actually two spots.





Are they highly reflective ice? Mineral deposits?
Or something even stranger? Credit: NASA/JPL.


Mark Sykes, Director of the Planetary Science Institute and a Dawn mission scientist told Scientific American, “If we discover something like cryovolcanism on Ceres, that would be spectacular because it would be an indicator that there are subsurface reservoirs of water. This isn’t what you normally think of as an asteroid, a dead potato, just being smacked around by its neighbors out in space. There is a lot happening on this object, and that could make Ceres very astrobiologically important.” Ceres is round, about the size of Texas, is made of 20% water ice and orbits between Mars and Jupiter.

See NASA Dawn mission.


> Source: https://www.earthfiles.com/

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If Ceres is a "Dwarf planet", then what is our Moon?




(Earth's moon, Luna, is 27% diameter, 2% of volume, 1.2% of Earth's mass )




Compare Ceres with Lunar and other moons, like Ganymede:


Ganymede /ˈɡænɨmd/[12] (Jupiter III) is the largest moon of Jupiter and in the Solar System, and the only moon known to have a magnetosphere. It is the seventh satellite and third Galilean moon outward from Jupiter.[13] Completing an orbit in roughly seven days, Ganymede participates in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance with the moons Europa and Io, respectively. It has a diameter of 5,268 km (3,273 mi), 8% larger than that of the planet Mercury, but has only 45% of the latter's mass. Its diameter is 2% larger than that of Saturn's Titan, the second largest moon. It also has the highest mass of all planetary satellites, with 2.02 times the mass of the Earth's moon.


> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganymede_%28moon%29



Solar System objects, In order of SIZE:

Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

##: followed by: Radius : ratio : Planet: volume: mass :

06: Earth ------ : 6,371 : 1.000 : Earth- : 1.000 : 1.000 :

07: Venus ----- : 6,051 : 0.095 : Venus : 0.857 : 0.815 :

08: Mars ------- : 3,389 : 0.532 : Mars- : 0.151 : 0.107 :

09: Ganymede : 2,634 : 0.413 : Jup.3 : 0.070 : 0.025 :

10: Titan ------- : 2,576 : 0.404 : Sat. 6 : 0.066 : 0.023 :

11: Mercury---- : 2,440 : 0.383 : Merc. : 0.056 : 0.055 :

12; Callisto ---- : 2,410 : 0.378 : Jup.4 : 0.054 : 0.018 :

13: Io ----------- : 1,821 : 0.286 : Jup.1 : 0.023 : 0.015 :

14: Moon ----- : 1,737 : 0.273 : Earth- : 0.020 : 0.012 :

15: Europa ---- : 1,561 : 0.245 : Jup.2 : 0.015 : 0.008 :

16: Triton------- : 1,353 : 0.212 : Nep1 : 0.010 : 0.004 :

17: Pluto ------- : 1,184 : 0.185 : dwarf : 0.007 : 0.002 :

##: (6 dwf, 9 ms)

33: Ceres ----- : 0,476 : 0.076 : A-belt : .0004 : .0002 :

> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Solar_System_objects_by_size

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Full length Ceres Series: Part I--Destination Ceres: Icy World Revealed?

Published on Sep 24, 2013

Britney Schmidt (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Julie Castillo-Rogez (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) discussed Ceres, a class of solar system objects that haven't yet been explored in depth, and how those explorations have the potential to change our concept of early solar system formation. We are predicting that Ceres is a dirt-covered icy world which will tell us about processes that operate in the early solar system, where, for a long time, most scientists thought ice didn't exist.

Britney Schmidt, science team liaison for the Dawn Mission E/PO team, is an Asst. Professor of Planetary Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she studies how habitable planets are built, how they can be detected, and the evolution of ice—on Europa, Antarctica, & in the asteroid belt.

Julie Castillo-Rogez, JPL, is a planetary scientist specializing in water-rich objects from modeling & experimental perspectives applied to the formulation, design, & planning of planetary missions.


The spectrum of light off Ceres is highly anomalous:

"it is made of half water"




On Thursday, August 15, 2013, Britney Schmidt, science team liaison for the Dawn Mission, and Julie Castillo-Rogez, planetary scientist from JPL, spoke in an Google Plus Hangout titled 'Ceres: Icy World Revealed?' about the growing excitement related to the innermost icy body.

"I think of Ceres actually as a game changer in the Solar System," Schmidt said. "Ceres is arguably the only one of its kind."

When Ceres was discovered in 1801, astronomers first classified it as a planet. The massive body traveled between Mars and Jupiter, where scientists had mathematically predicted a planet should lie. Further observations revealed that a number of small bodies littered the region, and Ceres was downgraded to just another asteroid within the asteroid belt. It wasn't until Pluto was classified as a dwarf planet in 2006 that Ceres was upgraded to the same level.

Ceres is the most massive body in the asteroid belt, and larger than some of the icy moons scientists consider ideal for hosting life. It is twice the size of Enceladus, Saturn's geyser-spouting moon that may hide liquid water beneath its surface.

Unlike other asteroids, the Texas-sized Ceres has a perfectly rounded shape that hints toward its origins.

"The fact that Ceres is so round tells us that it almost certainly had to form in the early solar system," Schmidt said. She explained that a later formation would have created a less rounded shape.

The shape of the dwarf planet, combined with its size and total mass, reveal a body of incredibly low density.

"Underneath this dusty, dirty, clay-type surface, we think that Ceres might be icy," Schmidt said. "It could potentially have had an ocean at one point in its history."

"The difference between Ceres and other icy bodies [in the Solar System] is that it's the closest to the Sun," Castillo-Rogez said.

Less than three times as far as Earth from the Sun, Ceres is close enough to feel the warmth of the star, allowing ice to melt and reform. Investigating the interior of the dwarf planet could provide insight into the early solar system, especially locations where water and other volatiles might have existed.

"Ceres is like the gatekeeper to the history of water in the middle solar system," Schmidt said.


> http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2015/02/ceres-the-dwarf-water-planet-reveals-intriguing-white-spots.html

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More Julie...


InSight Mission - Julie Castillo - 16th Annual International Mars Society Convention


NASA's Dawn probe set to begin orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres

The Globe and Mail-Mar 3, 2015
“What we don't know is in which form the water is stored,” said Julie Castillo-Rogez, a geophysicist and Dawn science team member

Big, dim, obscure – and just possibly a secret haven for alien life. That’s Ceres in a nutshell.

At 950 kilometres across, it was once known as the largest asteroid, but it has lately been upgraded to the status of dwarf planet. Whatever it is, we are about to see it up close for the first time thanks to the imminent arrival of NASA’s Dawn mission. After a 7 1/2-year journey, Dawn is set to begin orbiting Ceres on March 6.

. . .

Now comes the fun part, as planetary scientists test their ideas about Ceres against the reams of images and data that they hope the Dawn probe will radio back over the next 15 months.

Topping the list will be looking for evidence that Ceres is geologically – and possibly hydrologically – active, with pockets of briny subsurface water that may occasionally vent vapour into space and sustain colonies of microbes deep below the surface.

The odds of Dawn spotting signs of life would be a long shot, to say the least, but given that Ceres almost certainly has a thick layer of ice beneath its dusty surface, an abundance of carbon and some internal heat, it is clearly a destination of interest for astrobiologists.

. . .

Today, some 750,000 asteroids larger than one kilometre across are known to ply the vast swath of space called the asteroid belt. For the most part, they are rocky and primitive – leftover material from the formation of the planets that has not changed much over the past four billion years. But Ceres, the largest of them all, could prove to be an exception.

Rough estimates of Ceres’s density indicate it cannot be made of solid rock. Instead, up to half of its mass is probably water.

“What we don’t know is in which form the water is stored,” said Julie Castillo-Rogez, a geophysicist and Dawn science team member.

The water may be chemically locked in the rock, she said. But a more likely scenario is that it forms a layer of ice that begins just a few metres below Ceres’ cratered surface and extends down as much as 100 kilometres.

Ceres is 2.8 times farther from the sun than Earth and receives less than one seventh the sun’s radiant energy. That would suggest that any ice that exists there is stone cold. But Ceres may also generate its own internal heat due to the decay of radioactive elements. That, plus some dissolved salts, might be enough to maintain a thin layer or isolated patches of water in liquid form. Whether anything could be alive down there is another question. Dr. Castillo-Rogez said a strong case can be made that Ceres had at least the capability of supporting microbes in the distant past. “It’s difficult to assess,” whether that’s still true, she said.


> more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/science/nasas-dawn-probe-set-to-begin-orbiting-the-dwarf-planet-ceres/article23277098/

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US: NASA spacecraft enters orbit around dwarf planet Ceres

7th Mar 2015

The US space agency has confirmed that its space probe Dawn is in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. Scientists are hoping it will provide more information on how planets are created.

The probe Dawn entered orbit around Ceres on Friday after a seven-and-a-half year voyage, making it the first dwarf planet ever to be visited by a spacecraft.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter, which contains rocky remnants of the creation of the sun and planets some 4.5 billion years ago.

The dwarf planet is the last and final stop for Dawn, which earlier visited the asteroid Vesta, taking photographs of its surface over the course of a year.

Dawn will now spend 16 months mapping Ceres, which is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture and harvests. The spacecraft is to come to within 378 kilometers (235 miles) of the surface at its closest approach – approximately the distance at which the International Space Station orbits the Earth.

> more: http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/news/health-and-science/us-nasa-spacecraft-enters-orbit-around-dwarf-planet-ceres/



Dates in the orbital plan:

Dawn Nears Ceres - Approach Images, Movies and Animations

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  • 1 month later...

Earthfiles News April 3, 2015: Ceres- Mystery Bright Spots in Crater

Published on 3 Apr 2015

The biggest mystery so far is that while approaching Ceres on February 19th at nearly 29,000 mile away, Dawn took images of Ceres that showed one bright glint from further away is actually two bright spots inside a crater. In NASA-animated images of revolving Ceres, the two spots still look so bright as the crater rotates into the dark side away from sunlight. Web tweets started asking if those were alien E. T. technologies lighting up the crater?


The next good view of the bright spots will not be until Early May

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Astronomy Magazine - ‎1 hour ago‎
In an unprecedented flyby this July, our knowledge of what the Pluto system is really like will expand exponentially. By NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
. . .
The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons has traveled a longer time and farther away — more than nine years and 3 billion miles (5 billion kilometers) — than any space mission in history to reach its primary target. Its flyby of Pluto and its system of at least five moons on July 14 will complete the initial reconnaissance of the classical solar system. This mission also opens the door to an entirely new "third" zone of mysterious small planets and planetary building blocks in the Kuiper Belt, a large area with numerous objects beyond Neptune's orbit.

The flyby caps a five-decade-long era of reconnaissance that began with Venus and Mars in the early 1960s, and continued through first looks at Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn in the 1970s, and Uranus and Neptune in the 1980s.

Reaching this third zone of our solar system — beyond the inner rocky planets and outer gas giants — has been a space science priority for years. In the early 2000s, the National Academy of Sciences ranked the exploration of the Kuiper Belt and particularly Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, as its top priority planetary mission for the coming decade.

New Horizons — a compact, lightweight, powerfully equipped probe packing the most advanced suite of cameras and spectrometers ever sent on a first reconnaissance mission — is NASA's answer to that call.
. . .
... at least five moons. Among these moons, the largest, Charon, may itself sport an atmosphere or an interior ocean and possibly even evidence of recent surface activity.

"There's no doubt, Charon is a rising star in terms of scientific interest, and we can't wait to reveal it in detail in July," said Leslie Young from SwRI.
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  • 3 weeks later...

Pluto pics ... after a 3 Billion mile journey



actual : http://www.trbimg.com/img-552e7c59/turbine/bal-wx-new-horizons-mission-captures-first-color-images-of-pluto-20150415




simulated / closest time of approach July 2015


New Horizons : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Horizons

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  • 2 months later...

New York Times - ‎58 minutes ago‎

Nine and a half years and three billion miles later, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will zoom past Pluto on Tuesday.

And mission managers are confident that they have aimed precisely enough that the spacecraft, traveling 31,000 miles an hour, will pass ...


Cathy Olkin, a mission scientist, said: “Charon just blew our socks off when we had the new image today. The team has just been abuzz. There is so much interesting science in this one image alone.” Pluto is thought to be composed of about two thirds rock encased in a lot of ice, with surface temperatures of about minus 230C. As the £460m mission travels onwards into the Kuiper belt scientists hope that it will open up a window on the ancient solar system and the origins of planets, potentially helping to explain the formation of the Earth itself.

Andrew Coates, the head of planetary science at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, said: “These Kuiper belt objects are the building blocks of the outer solar system. They’re all very cold – it’s like a cosmic deep freeze. It’s the best way of preserving solar system history. That is what is so fascinating about this. It’s a really thrilling time for solar system exploration.”

Next month, mission scientists will choose which of two objects to visit next. Nasa estimates that the spacecraft will be able to keep recording and transmitting until the mid-2030s. Then its plutonium power source will run out and it will shut down, drifting outwards towards the edge of the solar system and deep space beyond.

> http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jul/15/pluto-mission-nasa-reveals-first-high-resolution-images-of-planets-surface

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BBC News - ‎1 hour ago‎
Nasa's New Horizons mission will fly past Pluto this week. For more than 70 years, Pluto was one of nine planets recognised in our Solar System.
. . .
Where did the controversy start?

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who was using one of the most powerful telescopes of the time: the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

Textbooks were swiftly updated to list this ninth member in the club. But over subsequent decades, astronomers began to wonder whether Pluto might simply be the first of a population of small, icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune.

This region would become known as the Kuiper Belt, but it took until 1992 for the first "resident" to be discovered. The candidate Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 1992 QBI was detected by David Jewitt and colleagues using the University of Hawaii's 2.24m telescope at Mauna Kea.

How did this change things?


Confirmation of the first KBO invigorated the existing debate. And in 2000, the Hayden Planetarium in New York became a focus for controversy when it unveiled an exhibit featuring only eight planets. The planetarium's director Neil deGrasse Tyson would later become a vocal figure in public discussions of Pluto's status.

But it was discoveries of Kuiper Belt Objects with masses roughly comparable to Pluto, such as Quaoar (announced in 2002), Sedna (2003) and Eris (2005), that pushed the issue to a tipping point.




Eris, in particular, appeared to be larger than Pluto - giving rise to its informal designation as the Solar System's "tenth planet".

The discovery of other icy objects similar in size to Pluto forced a re-think by the IAU




Prof Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), who led the team that found Eris, would later style himself as the "man who killed Pluto", while deGrasse Tyson would later jokingly quip that he had "driven the getaway car".

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