The Dawn spacecraft of NASA sent the closest picture of Ceres on 16th of May this year. At this time, the spacecraft came closest to this dwarf planet. It was about 440 kilometres away from the planet. Ceres is a giant asteroid and is also the one and only dwarf planet inside our solar system.
In June this month, dawn is supposed to move closer to Ceres’ orbit at just 35 kilometres away from the surface. The closest point from the dwarf planet will allow the spacecraft to get the best possible views. The officials of NASA are waiting with bated breath for the closest view of the planet and wish to receive the data at the earliest. They believe that the new data captured by high-resolution imaging will let them discover newer features about the dwarf planet.
So far, the spacecraft has been able to target a spot on the dwarf planet from its lowest orbit called the occator crater. The bright white spots on the floor of the crater are being identified as magnesium sulphate by the experts. It is also known as bath salt on earth. The crater is said to contain a concentration of the salts which is also evident on earth as well. Scientists are excited to study more about these salt depositions. They think it will help them analyse more about the geology of ceres.
After dawn reaches the lowest point on the spacecraft, it will be ten times closer to Ceres than it has ever been. In fact, one of the officials from the space agency said that it will be the closest to any other object it has explored in the solar system. He also mentioned that the last time the spacecraft came this close to an object was about ten years ago. It was on a rocket at that time flying over the Atlantic Ocean.
Apart from sending high-resolution images back to earth, the dawn will also analyse the surface of ceres with the help of the instruments it is equipped with. The mission to send dawn was started in 2007. At that time, it was orbiting Vesta in the asteroid belt. After that, it started its mission to ceres in the year 2015 till now. Dawn started to lower its orbit from April this year. Before that, it was orbiting in the rage of 4400 kilometres to 39100 kilometres from the surface of Ceres.