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Excerpt from spaceflightnow.com
|These two views of Ceres were acquired by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on Feb. 12, 2015, from a distance of about 52,000 miles (83,000 kilometers) as the dwarf planet rotated. The images, which were taken about 10 hours apart, have been magnified from their original size. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA|
Images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on approach to the dwarf planet Ceres show a world pockmarked by craters and mysterious bright spots, and scientists are eager for a better look in the weeks ahead.The latest images were taken Feb. 12 at a distance of 52,000 miles, or 83,000 kilometers, from Ceres. NASA released the fresh views Tuesday.Every picture taken of Ceres in the coming weeks will show greater detail, as Dawn is set to be captured by the Texas-sized world’s gravity March 6. The dwarf planet will pull Dawn into the first of a series of survey orbits 8,400 miles from Ceres around April 23.The imagery so far reveals Ceres as a cratered world, and Dawn will make a global map of the dwarf planet during its time in orbit.But several bright spots have captured the attention of scientists.“As we slowly approach the stage, our eyes transfixed on Ceres and her planetary dance, we find she has beguiled us but left us none the wiser,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at UCLA. “We expected to be surprised; we did not expect to be this puzzled.”The suspense is compounded by Dawn’s slow rate of approach. The probe’s ion propulsion system is gradually nudging Dawn on a trajectory closer to Ceres, eventually moving the spacecraft close enough to be grasped by the 590-mile diameter dwarf planet’s gravity.“I want to know what is causing the bright spots,” Russell wrote in an email to Spaceflight Now. “The increased resolution seems to have moved us no closer to answering this mystery. I am frustrated by the suspense. This is the one problem of ion propulsion: We are closing in on Ceres very slowly.”The latest photos have a resolution have 4.9 miles, or 7.8 kilometers, per pixel, according to a NASA press release.Dawn’s framing camera will take its next set of images Feb. 20 at a range of about 30,000 miles. After late February, the resolution of Dawn’s imagery will be reduced as the spacecraft passes Ceres and flies in front of it, before being pulled closer in early April for insertion into orbit.Soon after arriving in April, the spacecraft’s instruments will look for the signature of water vapor plumes shooting into space from the surface of Ceres, which may be blanketed in a crust of ice.Dawn will orbit closest to Ceres in December at an altitude of 232 miles.Dawn’s mission planners say the spacecraft could operate around Ceres until late 2016.Ceres is the second destination for NASA’s Dawn mission, which launched in September 2007 and visited asteroid Vesta in 2011 and 2012.
scientificamerican.comThe India Space Research Organization unveils its first pictures of the red planet. India's first Mars probe has captured its first photos, revealing an early glimpse of the surface and atmosphere of the Red Planet.The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) unveiled the first photos of Mars from its Mangalyaan spacecraft via Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 24-25), just a day or so after the probe made it to the Red Planet.
|India's first Mars orbiter Mangalyaan captured this photo of the Martian atmosphere just after arriving at Mars on Sept. 24, 2014 Indian Standard Time. The Indian Space Research Organisation released the image on Sept. 25. |
Credit: Indian Space Research Organisation
"The view is nice up here," ISRO officials tweeted about one of the images, which shows a heavily cratered portion of the Red Planet's surface.Another photo depicts the curving, orange-brown limb of Mars against the blackness of space."A shot of Martian atmosphere. I'm getting better at it. No pressure," ISRO officials tweeted about that one.Mangalyaan, whose name means "Mars craft" in Sanskrit, arrived at the Red Planet on Tuesday night (Sept. 23), making India's space agency just the fourth entity — after the United States, the Soviet Union and the European Space Agency — to successfully place a probe in orbit around Mars.Mangalyaan is the centerpiece of India's $74 million Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which ISRO officials have described as primarily a technology demonstration. The spacecraft carries a camera and four scientific instruments that it will use to study the Martian surface and atmosphere during the course of a mission expected to last six to 10 months. MOM reached Mars close on the heels of NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) probe, which was captured by the Red Planet's gravity on Sunday (Sept. 21). The $671 million MAVEN mission aims to help scientists determine what happened to Mars' atmosphere, which was once relatively thick but is now just 1 percent as dense as that of Earth.MAVEN has also taken its first images of Mars from orbit; NASA released a few false-color views of the planet's atmosphere on Wednesday.Mars orbit now hosts five operational spacecraft; NASA's Mars Odyssey probe and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as Europe's Mars Express craft, share space with MAVEN and Mangalyaan. And two rovers (NASA's Opportunity and Curiosity) are actively exploriong the planet's surface.