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Topic: Crater

NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft loses third reaction wheel to failure

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is preparing to observe Ceres on April 29th from an “opposition” position, directly between the dwarf planet’s mysterious Occator Crater and the sun. This unique geometry may yield new insights about the bright material in the center of the crater.

While preparing for this observation, one of Dawn’s two remaining reaction wheels stopped functioning on April 23rd. By electrically changing the speed at which these gyroscope-like devices spin, Dawn controls its orientation in the zero-gravity, frictionless conditions of space.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover leaves Cape Tribulation heading for Perseverance Valley on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is departing “Cape Tribulation,” a crater-rim segment it has explored since late 2014, southbound for its next destination, “Perseverance Valley.”

The rover team plans observations in the valley to determine what type of fluid activity carved it billions of years ago: water, wind, or flowing debris lubricated by water.

A color panorama of a ridge called “Rocheport” provides both a parting souvenir of Cape Tribulation and also possible help for understanding the valley ahead. The view was assembled from multiple images taken by Opportunity’s panoramic camera.

A grooved ridge called "Rocheport" on the rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater spans this scene from the Pancam on NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

A grooved ridge called “Rocheport” on the rim of Mars’ Endeavour Crater spans this scene from the Pancam on NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA study suggests Dwarf Planet Ceres’ Atmosphere linked to Sun’s Behavior

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have long thought that Ceres may have a very weak, transient atmosphere, but mysteries lingered about its origin and why it’s not always present. Now, researchers suggest that this temporary atmosphere appears to be related to the behavior of the sun, rather than Ceres’ proximity to the sun.

The study was conducted by scientists from NASA’s Dawn mission and others who previously identified water vapor at Ceres using other observatories.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres' surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres’ surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft data used to determine age of Bright Spot on Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The bright central area of Ceres’ Occator Crater, known as Cerealia Facula, is approximately 30 million years younger than the crater in which it lies, according to a new study in the Astronomical Journal. Scientists used data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft to analyze Occator’s central dome in detail, concluding that this intriguing bright feature on the dwarf planet is only about 4 million years old — quite recent in terms of geological history.

Researchers led by Andreas Nathues at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Gottingen, Germany, analyzed data from two instruments on board NASA’s Dawn spacecraft: the framing camera, and the visible and infrared mapping spectrometer.

The bright spots in the center of Occator Crater on Ceres are shown in enhanced color in this view from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI/LPI)

The bright spots in the center of Occator Crater on Ceres are shown in enhanced color in this view from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI/LPI)

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NASA’s Dawn Mission finds Evidence for Organic Material on Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn mission has found evidence for organic material on Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Scientists using the spacecraft’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR) detected the material in and around a northern-hemisphere crater called Ernutet. Organic molecules are interesting to scientists because they are necessary, though not sufficient, components of life on Earth.

This enhanced color composite image, made with data from the framing camera aboard NASA's Dawn spacecraft, shows the area around Ernutet Crater. The bright red portions appear redder with respect to the rest of Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This enhanced color composite image, made with data from the framing camera aboard NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, shows the area around Ernutet Crater. The bright red portions appear redder with respect to the rest of Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn Mission identifies Craters on Ceres where Ice could be trapped

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Scientists with NASA’s Dawn mission have identified permanently shadowed regions on the dwarf planet Ceres. Most of these areas likely have been cold enough to trap water ice for a billion years, suggesting that ice deposits could exist there now.

“The conditions on Ceres are right for accumulating deposits of water ice,” said Norbert Schorghofer, a Dawn guest investigator at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Ceres has just enough mass to hold on to water molecules, and the permanently shadowed regions we identified are extremely cold — colder than most that exist on the moon or Mercury.”

At the poles of Ceres, scientists have found craters that are permanently in shadow (indicated by blue markings). Such craters are called "cold traps" if they remain below about minus 240 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 151 degrees Celsius). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

At the poles of Ceres, scientists have found craters that are permanently in shadow (indicated by blue markings). Such craters are called “cold traps” if they remain below about minus 240 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 151 degrees Celsius). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA says Bright Spots on Dwarf Planet Ceres may come from Hydrothermal Activity

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The brightest area on Ceres, located in the mysterious Occator Crater, has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth, according to a new study from scientists on NASA’s Dawn mission. The study, published online in the journal Nature, is one of two new papers about the makeup of Ceres.

“This is the first time we see this kind of material elsewhere in the solar system in such a large amount,” said Maria Cristina De Sanctis, lead author and principal investigator of Dawn’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer. De Sanctis is based at the National Institute of Astrophysics, Rome.

The center of Ceres' mysterious Occator Crater is the brightest area on the dwarf planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/ASI/INAF)

The center of Ceres’ mysterious Occator Crater is the brightest area on the dwarf planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/ASI/INAF)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft provides high resolution details of Bright Spots and complex features on Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists from NASA’s Dawn mission unveiled new images from the spacecraft’s lowest orbit at Ceres, including highly anticipated views of Occator Crater, at the 47th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, on Tuesday.

Occator Crater, measuring 57 miles (92 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, contains the brightest area on Ceres, the dwarf planet that Dawn has explored since early 2015. The latest images, taken from 240 miles (385 kilometers) above the surface of Ceres, reveal a dome in a smooth-walled pit in the bright center of the crater.

Occator Crater, measuring 57 miles (92 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, contains the brightest area on Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

Occator Crater, measuring 57 miles (92 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, contains the brightest area on Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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A look at NASA’s Dawn spacecraft year of Orbiting dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One year ago, on March 6th, 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft slid gently into orbit around Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  Since then, the spacecraft has delivered a wealth of images and other data that open an exciting new window to the previously unexplored dwarf planet.

“Ceres has defied our expectations and surprised us in many ways, thanks to a year’s worth of data from Dawn. We are hard at work on the mysteries the spacecraft has presented to us,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for the mission, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

The mysterious mountain Ahuna Mons is seen in this mosaic of images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images from its lowest-altitude orbit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

The mysterious mountain Ahuna Mons is seen in this mosaic of images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images from its lowest-altitude orbit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft delivers detailed photos of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Features on dwarf planet Ceres that piqued the interest of scientists throughout 2015 stand out in exquisite detail in the latest images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which recently reached its lowest-ever altitude at Ceres.

Dawn took these images near its current altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers) from Ceres, between December 19th and 23rd, 2015.

Kupalo Crater, one of the youngest craters on Ceres, shows off many fascinating attributes at the high image resolution of 120 feet (35 meters) per pixel. The crater has bright material exposed on its rim, which could be salts, and its flat floor likely formed from impact melt and debris.

This image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows Kupalo Crater, one of the youngest craters on Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows Kupalo Crater, one of the youngest craters on Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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