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NASA simulated flight over Ceres

NASA simulated flight over Ceres

Take a flight over dwarf planet Ceres in this video made with images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. The simulated flyover was made by the mission's camera team at Germany's national aeronautics and space research center (DLR). The colorful new animation shows a simulated flight over the surface of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

The movie shows Ceres in enhanced color, which helps to highlight subtle differences in the appearance of surface materials. Scientists believe areas with shades of blue contain younger, fresher material, including flows, pits and cracks.

The animated flight over Ceres emphasizes the most prominent craters, such as Occator, and the tall, conical mountain Ahuna Mons. Features on Ceres are named for earthly agricultural spirits, deities and festivals.

The movie was produced using images from Dawn's high-altitude mapping orbit. During that phase of the mission, which lasted from August to October 2015, the spacecraft circled Ceres at an altitude of about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers).

Earlier, NASA mission led by UCLA professor Christopher Russell had released new images of the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest asteroid between Mars and Jupiter.

The photos were produced by the spacecraft Dawn; NASA has also produced a one-minute video animation that sheds new light on this mysterious and heavily cratered world.

Everything we learn from Ceres will be absolutely new, said Christopher Russell, a UCLA professor of space physics and planetary science, and the Dawn mission s principal investigator. We approach it in awe and almost total ignorance.

The simulated overflight shows the wide range of crater shapes that we have encountered on Ceres. The viewer can observe the sheer walls of the crater Occator, and also Dantu and Yalode, where the craters are a lot flatter, said Ralf Jaumann, a Dawn mission scientist at DLR.

UCLA professor Jean-Luc Margot had described a simple test that can be used to clearly separate planets from other bodies like dwarf planets and minor planets. The current official definition of a planet, which was issued by the International Astronomical Union in 2006, applies only to bodies in our solar system, which Margot said has created a definitional limbo for the newly discovered bodies.

Dawn is the first mission to visit Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. After orbiting asteroid Vesta for 14 months in 2011 and 2012, Dawn arrived at Ceres in March 2015. The spacecraft is currently in its final and lowest mapping orbit, at about 240 miles (385 kilometers) from the surface.

Dawn's mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.

Watch the images here: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/

NASA simulated flight over Ceres