NASA Reveals Stunning New Photos Of Dwarf Planet Ceres


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Still, Rayman—the chief engineer and mission director of the project—is skeptical that Ceres has life.

“It (life) is an extreme remote possibility,” he says.

“Ceres does have many of the ingredients we think are necessary for life—water, organics, a source of energy, internal geological forces.

“But you need to combine the ingredients in the right way.”

Ceres likely does not. Daytime surface temperature is minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Any atmosphere is barely there, transient at best. Even the most primitive of microbes are doubtful.

ceres

 

The dwarf planet Ceres. This image was taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft from an altitude of 280 miles.

Just released by NASA: striking close-ups of the mysterious world Ceres, taken by a robotic probe turned paparazzi.

“These pictures are new to you and new to us too,” says Marc Rayman of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “It’s a wonderful flood of data.”

Every 27 hours, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft swoops near the surface of Ceres to grab the close-ups. At its lowest point, the probe is only 22 miles up. In outer space, that’s virtually skimming the ground.

The photo shoot started June 9; so far, Dawn has taken “hundreds” of pictures, says Rayman, “exotic alien landscapes, scenes truly otherworldly.”

The images are so new, NASA researchers “haven’t had time to analyze them yet,” he says.

 “But it’s almost like we’re seeing a different Ceres.”

June 16, 2018: Occator Crater’s northern wall.

Smooth material on Ceres. Dawn’s altitude: 41 miles.

Space scientists already knew Ceres was more than a drab dead rock.

Dawn began orbiting the dwarf planet in March 2015; even before taking the close-ups, the spacecraft shot more than 50,000 images, all from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Researchers mapped the surface. They analyzed data from the rest of Dawn’s instruments. They saw a cryovolcano, salt flats, and ancient Occator Crater, 57 miles across. They figured out that vast amounts of salt water, nearly all frozen, dwells underground.

They also found organic materials—the “building blocks” for life.

Indeed, the latest data shows lots of organics: “One area of 3,700 acres, covered with it,” says Rayman. “Five to ten times more prevalent than we thought was there.”

Landslides along Occator Crater’s eastern rim. Dawn’s altitude: 27 miles.

A small boulder on Ceres. Altitude: 24 miles.

Still, Rayman—the chief engineer and mission director of the project—is skeptical that Ceres has life.

“It (life) is an extreme remote possibility,” he says.

“Ceres does have many of the ingredients we think are necessary for life—water, organics, a source of energy, internal geological forces.

“But you need to combine the ingredients in the right way.”

Ceres likely does not. Daytime surface temperature is minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Any atmosphere is barely there, transient at best. Even the most primitive of microbes are doubtful.

June 10, 2018: A battered crater rim on Ceres. Dawn’s altitude: 25 miles.

June 17, 2018: Image of southeastern wall of Occator Crater. Dawn’s altitude: 22 miles.

The close-ups are the spacecraft’s last hurrah; Dawn is nearly out of fuel. Less than two gallons of hydrazine are left.

“In this low-altitude orbit, we use the propellant much more quickly,” says Rayman. “So it’s going fast.”

The hydrazine may last another few weeks, or a few months, but is surely gone sometime between August and October.

When that happens, Dawn is dead. “It won’t be able to control its orientation, point its antenna to Earth, point its camera, or point the ion engine,” Rayman says.

Instead, Dawn will engage in an endless dance around Ceres, forever in orbit.

Rayman, with the mission nearly 16 years, has “bittersweet” feelings.

“Dawn was powered by the burning desire to know the cosmos,” he says. “It’s not just the ion propulsion that got us there.”

Yet research never stops. Generations of scientists will download the data from Dawn for decades to come.

Says Rayman: “The spacecraft won’t continue. But its legacy will.”

Artist’s impression. The Dawn spacecraft.

 

SOURCE FORBES.COM

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About sooteris kyritsis

Job title: (f)PHELLOW OF SOPHIA Profession: RESEARCHER Company: ANTHROOPISMOS Favorite quote: "ITS TIME FOR KOSMOPOLITANS(=HELLINES) TO FLY IN SPACE." Interested in: Activity Partners, Friends Fashion: Classic Humor: Friendly Places lived: EN THE HIGHLANDS OF KOSMOS THROUGH THE DARKNESS OF AMENTHE
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