Dawn Mosaic of Ceres Shows a Dark Cratered World

The Dawn space craft has finally begun its science phase after settling into a 13,500 Km orbit around the dark dwarf planet Ceres.  It took some manoeuvring to get it in the right spot, but now it has begun mapping the surface as it slowly orbits once every two weeks.  A lovely mosaic image from the space craft is the latest jaw-dropping picture of the former asteroid.

Ceres shadows Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Like a great shot of the Lunar terminator, by seeing the shadows created by the light from the Sun, we can get a sense of depth of the heavy craters on the surface.  It may be difficult to get a sense of how dark Ceres is though.  It only reflects 9% of the light from the Sun, compared to the other target of Dawn, asteroid Vesta, which has an albedo of 43%.

It will be an exciting few months as we start to see the science results from Ceres and the first contact of New Horizons with Pluto.  You can bet I will be writing about it.

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