Dec 08, 2016 | Updated: 09:37 AM EST

Dawn Space Mission Sends Back More Detailed Images Of Ceres

Jan 12, 2016 10:34 PM EST

NASA released new images taken by the Dawn spacecraft on the dwarf planet Ceres. The Dawn space probe was able to take images from Ceres between Dec. 19 and Dec. 23, 2015 at its lowest altitude yet.

The Dawn spacecraft sent back several images of the dwarf planet Ceres to NASA. The images feature shots taken of the newest crater on the dwarf planet, Kupalo Crater, the 25-mile wide Messor Crater, among other interesting locations. These images were taken by the space probe at its lowest altitude at Ceres yet (240 miles) between Dec. 19 and Dec. 23, 2015.

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One of the returned images is a clear shot of the Kupalo Crater. The Kupalo Crater, one of the youngest crater on Ceres, features a bright material exposed on its rim. The space agency believes that these may be traces of salts. The crater also has a "flat" floor that may mean that it was formed from impact melt and debris.

'This crater and its recently-formed deposits will be a prime target of study for the team as Dawn continues to explore Ceres in its final mapping phase,' said Paul Schenk, a Dawn science team member at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston. The Kupalo Crater is 16 miles wide and located at the southern part of the dwarf planet. The crater is named after the Slavic god of harvest and vegetation.

Dawn will remain at its current altitude for the entirety of its mission. The prime mission is set to end by June 30, 2016.

'When we set sail for Ceres upon completing our Vesta exploration, we expected to be surprised by what we found on our next stop. Ceres did not disappoint,' said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Dawn space mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The University of California in Los Angeles is responsible for the overall science of the mission. 

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