NASA released new images of the dwarf planet Ceres Tuesday.
The photos were taken from the Dawn spacecraft between December 19 and 23, 2015 from an altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers). It is the closest the Dawn has gotten to Ceres.
Some of the photos show Kupalo Crater with bright material on its rim and walls. NASA thinks the bright area could be salts. There are also bright spots seen on the Occator Crater. Researchers will try to determine if the material on the craters is related.
Kupalo is 16 miles across (26 kilometers) and is named for “the Slavic god of vegetation and harvest.”
This image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows Kupalo Crater, one of the youngest craters on Ceres. The crater has bright material exposed on its rim and walls, which could be salts. Its flat floor likely formed from impact melt and debris. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
NASA says, “Dawn’s low vantage point also captured the dense network of fractures on the floor of 78-mile-wide (126-kilometer-wide) Dantu Crater. One of the youngest large craters on Earth’s moon, called Tycho, has similar fractures. This cracking may have resulted from the cooling of impact melt, or when the crater floor was uplifted after the crater formed.”
Dawn will remain at an altitude of 240 miles for the rest of its prime mission which is slated for June 30, 2106. It is the first mission to visit a dwarf planet. It arrived at Ceres on March 6, 2015. Dawn was launched from Cape Canaveral on September 27, 2007 at 7:34 a.m. EDT.
This image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows part of Messor Crater (25 miles or 40 kilometers, wide), located at northern mid-latitudes on Ceres. The scene shows an older crater in which a large lobe-shaped flow partly covers the northern (top) part of the crater floor. The flow is a mass of material ejected when a younger crater formed just north of the rim. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
The fractured floor of Dantu Crater on Ceres is seen in this image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Similar fractures are seen in Tycho, one of the youngest large craters on Earth’s moon. This cracking may have resulted from the cooling of impact melt, or when the crater floor was uplifted after the crater formed. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft viewed this Cerean crater, which is covered in ridges and steep slopes, called scarps on Dec. 23, 2015. These features likely resulted when the crater partly collapsed during its formation. The curvilinear nature of the scarps resembles those on the floor of Rheasilvia, the giant impact crater on Vesta, which Dawn orbited from 2011 to 2012. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Story compiled with information from NASA.