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.

2016 February 4
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Dwarf Planet Ceres
Image Credit & License: NASA, JPL-Caltech, UCLA, MPS,DLR,IDA - Composition: Justin Cowart

Explanation: Dwarf planet Ceres is the largest object in the Solar System's main asteroid belt, with a diameter of about 950 kilometers (590 miles). Ceres is seen here in approximately true color, based on image data from the Dawn spacecraft recorded on May 4, 2015. On that date, Dawn's orbit stood 13,642 kilometers above the surface of the small world. Two of Ceres' famous mysterious bright spots at Oxo crater and Haulani crater are near center and center right of this view. Casting a telltale shadow at the bottom is Ceres' cone-shaped, lonely mountain Ahuna Mons. Presently some 385 kilometers above the Cerean surface, the ion-propelled Dawn spacecraft is now returning images from its closest mapping orbit.

Tomorrow's picture: pixels in space

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