New NASA Video Shows Dwarf Planet Ceres at Opposition from Sun

This video is made of images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, from a position exactly between the Sun and the surface of Ceres.

Dawn successfully observed the dwarf planet Ceres at opposition on April 29, 2017.

Mission specialists had carefully maneuvered the spacecraft into a special orbit so that its framing cameras could view Occator Crater, which contains Ceres’ brightest spots, from this new perspective.

The new movie shows these opposition images, with contrast enhanced to highlight brightness differences.

Occator’s bright spots stand out particularly well on an otherwise relatively bland surface.

Dawn took these images from an altitude of about 12,000 miles (20,000 km).

With a diameter of 57 miles (92 km), Occator crater is larger than Tycho crater on the Moon. Its steep walls stand tall at over 1.4 miles (2 km), higher than the North face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps. The origin and nature of the bright spots in its interior is still not clear. Image credit: DLR.

With a diameter of 57 miles (92 km), Occator crater is larger than Tycho crater on the Moon. Its steep walls stand tall at over 1.4 miles (2 km), higher than the North face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps. The origin and nature of the bright spots in its interior is still not clear. Image credit: DLR.

Based on data from ground-based telescopes and spacecraft that previously viewed planetary bodies at opposition, the Dawn scientists correctly predicted that Ceres would appear brighter from this opposition configuration.

This increase in brightness, or ‘surge,’ relates the size of the grains of material on the surface, as well as how porous those materials are.

Currently, Dawn is 324 million miles (521 million km) from Earth, or 1,430 times as far as the Moon and 3.48 times as far as the Sun today.

Radio signals, traveling at the universal limit of the speed of light, take 58 minutes to make the round trip.

The spacecraft is healthy and orients itself using its hydrazine thrusters.

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