Dec 24, 2015 02:37 AM EST
Space probe Dawn sent new images to National Aeronautics and Space Agency taken from Ceres. These new images provide more detailed view of the dwarf planet in the asteroid belt.
Dawn captured detailed photographs of the southern hemisphere of Ceres. This was taken on Dec. 10 at an altitude of 240 miles. Dawn was dispatched to study Ceres and should stay in that altitude throughout the entirety of its mission. The resolution of the new images is at an enormous 120 feet per pixel.
Gerber Catena is one of the most impressive chains of craters the planet featured. It is situated just west of the larger crater Urvara. One of the few features that is notable in the new images sent back by the spacecraft is the "fracturing." This is likely because of celestial impacts and probably some tectonic activity. The dwarf planet has crusts that break up and are visible on its surface.
"Why they are so prominent is not yet understood, but they are probably related to the complex crustal structure of Ceres," Paul Schenk, Dawn science team member, said.
Early December, the Dawn science team already revealed that salt is visible in the craters such as Occator. These salts are bright materials that are visible also on the surface. Ceres also contained ammoniated clays. This particular finding heavily suggest that Ceres could have formed nearby Neptune and moved forward into the asteroid belt. Ammonia is very abundant in the outer solar system.
"As we take the highest-resolution data ever from Ceres, we will continue to examine our hypotheses and uncover even more surprises about this mysterious world," said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dawn is the first mission to visit Ceres. This is also the first mission outside of Earth-Moon system to orbit two distinct targets in the solar system. Dawn orbited protoplanet Vista in 2011-2012 and arrived at Ceres early this year.