On January 29, 2016, NASA released new animation showing a simulated flight over the surface of dwarf planet Ceres in enhanced color. The movie is based on images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, taken between August and October 2015 when the spacecraft circled Ceres at an altitude of about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers).
The color, NASA says, 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.
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.
Bottom line: An colorful animation shows a simulated flight over the surface of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft from August-October 2015.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.