Dawn mission scientists were able to gather and compile high resolution snapshots recently taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft into a breath-taking animation. NASA released the stunning flyover video of Ceres Friday.
The video is actually a color-enhanced animation which depicts a simulated flyby close to the planet’s surface. Experts at the German Aerospace Center in Köln, Germany, processed the images taken by the space probe’s framing camera to highlight its surface features.
Researchers explained that the bluish hues may indicate features that are relatively fresher than the rest of the environment on the desolated dwarf planet. In the short animation clip some cracks and pits are given a blue tint, while the surrounding features are depicted in shades of grey.
In the animation, there can be seen the most significant impact craters including Occator and the famous pyramid-shaped mountain Ahuna Mons, which is unique on Ceres.
Scientists noted that the dwarf planet’s most prominent features were named after fests, gods and spirits that are linked to agricultural activities.
For instance, Occator crater, which has puzzled scientists and the public alike due to a set of mystery bright spots on its surface, is named after Ceres’ assistant and the god of harrow in Roman mythology. Ahuna Mons was named after a post-harvest festival in India, while another impact crater Ikapati bears the name of the Polynesian goddess of agricultural fertility and harvest. Ceres itself was named after the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility.
The imagery used to produce the short clip was taken from Dawn spacecraft’s framing camera while the probe was mapping the rocky body’s surface from a 900-mile-high altitude between August and October, 2015.
Ralf Jaumann, one of the scientists at the German Aerospace Center who produced the video, noted that the enhanced colors help the viewer better observe the variety of craters found on the tiny planet’s surface from Occator, which has more abrupt walls, to Yalode and Dantu, which are more flat.
Dawn probe is the first spacecraft to reach Ceres, the largest rocky object located in the asteroid belt. But before making history, Dawn paid a visit to asteroid Vesta five years ago, and stayed there for more than one year before heading to Ceres. It reached the dwarf planet in March last year. Currently the probe is orbiting and mapping Ceres from a 240-mile distance.
Dawn’s mission is coordinated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
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