[meteorite-list] Dawn's Ceres Color Map Reveals Surface Diversity

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2015 08:55:03 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201504141555.t3EFt3AO009869_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Dawn's Ceres Color Map Reveals Surface Diversity
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
April 13, 2015

A new color map of dwarf planet Ceres, which NASA's Dawn spacecraft has
been orbiting since March, reveals the diversity of the surface of this
planetary body. Differences in morphology and color across the surface
suggest Ceres was once an active body, Dawn researchers said today at
the 2015 General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna.

"This dwarf planet was not just an inert rock throughout its history.
It was active, with processes that resulted in different materials in
different regions. We are beginning to capture that diversity in our color
images," said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission,
based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Dawn mission made history on March 6 as the first spacecraft to reach
a dwarf planet, and the first spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestrial
targets. Previously, Dawn studied giant asteroid Vesta from 2011 to 2012,
uncovering numerous insights about its geology and history. While Vesta
is a dry body, Ceres is believed to be 25 percent water ice by mass. By
comparing Vesta and Ceres, scientists hope to gain a better understanding
of the formation of the solar system.

Ceres' surface is heavily cratered, as expected, but appears to have fewer
large craters than scientists anticipated. It also has a pair of very
bright neighboring spots in its northern hemisphere. More detail will
emerge after the spacecraft begins its first intensive science phase on
April 23, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) from the
surface, said Martin Hoffmann, investigator on the Dawn framing camera
team, based at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen,

The visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR), an imaging spectrometer
that examines Ceres in visible and infrared light, has been examining
the relative temperatures of features on Ceres' surface. Preliminary examination
suggests that different bright regions on Ceres' surface behave differently,
said Federico Tosi, investigator from the VIR instrument team at the Institute
for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, and the Italian National Institute
for Astrophysics, Rome.

Based on observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, planetary scientists
have identified 10 bright regions on Ceres' surface. One pair of bright
spots, by far the brightest visible marks on Ceres, appears to be located
in a region that is similar in temperature to its surroundings. But a
different bright feature corresponds to a region that is cooler than the
rest of Ceres' surface.

The origins of Ceres' bright spots, which have captivated the attention
of scientists and the public alike, remain unknown. It appears the brightest
pair is located in a crater 57 miles (92 kilometers) wide. As Dawn gets
closer to the surface of Ceres, better-resolution images will become available.

"The bright spots continue to fascinate the science team, but we will
have to wait until we get closer and are able to resolve them before we
can determine their source," Russell said.

Both Vesta and Ceres are located in the main asteroid belt between Mars
and Jupiter. The Dawn spacecraft will continue studying Ceres through
June 2016.

Dawn's mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,
California, 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. For a complete list of mission participants, visit:


For more information about Dawn, visit:


Media Contact
Elizabeth Landau
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Elizabeth.Landau at jpl.nasa.gov

Received on Tue 14 Apr 2015 11:55:03 AM PDT

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