Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2015 June 10

Fly Over Dwarf Planet Ceres
Video Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, UCLA, MPS/DLR/IDA, DLR, ESO

Explanation: What would it look like to fly over dwarf planet Ceres? Animators from the German Aerospace Center recently took actual images and height data from NASA's robotic Dawn mission -- currently visiting Ceres -- to generate several fascinating virtual sequences. The featured video begins with a mock orbit around the 950-km wide space rock, with the crater featuring two of the enigmatic white spots soon rotating into view. The next sequences take the viewer around the Ceres' north and south poles, and then over a limb of the dark world highlighting its heavily cratered surface. Here, terrain height on the asteroid belt's largest object has been digitally doubled, while an artificial star field has been added in the background. The Dawn spacecraft will likely remain an unusual artificial moon of Ceres long after its mission concludes.

News: Bright Spots Shine in Newest Dawn Ceres Images
Tomorrow's picture: open space

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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