New Animation Takes a Colorful Flight Over Ceres
Simulated view of Dwarf planet Ceres using images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Flyover Video of Ceres Shows the Grandeur of Space Exploration

Article Updated: 31 Jan , 2016

Wow. This video will knock your socks off … at least it did mine. This new flyover video of Ceres was created using enhanced images taken by the Dawn spacecraft’s framing camera. It was produced by the camera team at the German Aerospace Center, DLR, using images from Dawn’s high-altitude mapping orbit of 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) above Ceres’ surface. The video shows a stark and stunning world.

“The viewer can observe the sheer walls of the crater Occator, and also Dantu and Yalode, where the craters are a lot flatter,” said Ralf Jaumann, a Dawn mission scientist at DLR.

The enhanced color used here helps to highlight subtle differences in the appearance of surface materials. There’s additional info at the end of the video, but for a quick reference, area with shades of blue contain younger, fresher material such as flows, pits and cracks, while brown areas clays, which, enticingly, usually form in the presence of water.

I had the chance to visit with Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director at JPL earlier this month, when I interviewed him for a book I’m working on about robotic space exploration. One thing he really stressed is that Ceres is a big place, with diverse terrain and a variety of features. This video really brings that home.

“Ceres has a surface area of 2,770,000 square kilometers … It’s a big surface and we haven’t seen all of it,” Rayman said. “It will be great to see what the new detail shows from the low altitude orbit, because those pictures will be four times better resolution than pictures we were able to get at our previous orbit.”

Dawn is now in its final and lowest mapping orbit, at about 240 miles (385 kilometers) from the surface.

This animated flight over Ceres emphasizes the most prominent craters, such as Occator, Dantu, and the tall, conical mountain Ahuna Mons.

The bright features seen in Occator Crater have been determined to be salts, which are quite reflective and look bright to our eyes (sorry no alien city lights) and the team will be providing more details and images soon.

Occator Crater (57 miles, 92 kilometers) on Ceres, home of the brightest spots on the dwarf planet, in a simulated view using Dawn images. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Occator Crater (57 miles, 92 kilometers) on Ceres, home of the brightest spots on the dwarf planet, in a simulated view using Dawn images. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Additional info: JPL, Dawn mission home page

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10 Responses

  1. Aqua4U says:

    Socks knocked off over here too.. AND I had my shoes on! Ceres sure is beat up! I wonder how many of those craters would be here on Earth instead if Ceres hadn’t taken the hit?

    Access to Comments is still a problemo but has changed since yesterday. A sign that someone’s been after the fix? Today I am asked to sign up an log on to another server? Not!

    • Aqua4U says:

      Again.. the log in button on the upper right of the page kind of works.. not the link below the article. This message follows after posting once in… Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

  2. Pete says:

    How capable is Dawn’s spectrometer?
    It will be interesting if they can zero in on the makeup of those “salts”.
    Last I knew Scotty needed some more dilithium crystals.

  3. Pete says:

    (Yep. It’s still reporting entries here as duplicates, and offering no recourse – yet when I signed off and then came back my comment is there. It certainly inhibits the making of comments. Sunday, Jan 31, 10 PM Eastern U.S. time.)

  4. UFOsMOTHER says:

    Universe Today website used to be great but since the change of format i hardly look at it go back to the older format sometimes more is less…

  5. Plenum says:


  6. Fraser Cain says:

    Hey commenters, we changed some of the settings on the webserver, please let me know if you’re still having any problems leaving comments.

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