— NASA (@NASA) February 17, 2015
These first, more highly-defined images of the dwarf planet Ceres show a surface far different than want scientists previously expected.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is on a mission to Ceres, the largest celestial body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres accounts for approximately one third of the total mass of the asteroid belt.
Dawn sent this photograph earlier this week from about 53,500 miles away. NASA expects the spacecraft to enter Ceres’ orbit during the first week of March before spending a year observing and studying what was once called “the missing planet.”
Discovered in 1801 by Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi, Ceres is an anomaly within the belt due to its comparatively massive size. Ceres is 590 miles in diameter, a little less than the distance from Richmond, VA to the southern border of Maine.
These new photographs are much more detailed than previous images from the Hubble telescope and show numerous craters as well as the most intriguing features of all: several bright spots that scientists are guessing may be expanses of ice.
Until Dawn reaches her destination, we won’t have much more information on the 33rd-largest mass in our Solar System.
Did you know that there is a dwarf planet between Mars and Jupiter? Learn when NASA’s spacecraft will arrive to it!