This new video animation of dwarf planet Ceres – released by NASA today (June 8, 2015) – is based on images taken by the Dawn spacecraft as it orbits around this little world. It’s our best look yet at Ceres, which is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and which was the first asteroid to be discovered in 1801. The images come from Dawn’s first mapping orbit at Ceres, at an altitude of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers), as well as navigational images taken from 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) away.
The images provided information for a three-dimensional terrain model. The vertical dimension has been exaggerated by a factor of two, and a star field has been added in the background.
By the way, this video doesn’t cast any light on the weird double bright spot on Ceres that has so many people – scientists and others – scratching their heads. What are these spots? NASA wants you to cast your vote! The options are: Volcano, geyser, rock, ice, salt deposit or “other.” When I voted, “other” was way ahead of the others, with “ice” running a distant second. Vote here.
Bottom line: Beautiful new video – created with Dawn spacecraft images – flies you completely around the dwarf planet Ceres.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.