Color-coded topographic map of Occator crater on Ceres produced from Dawn spacecraft imagery. Blue is the lowest elevation, and brown is the highest. The crater, which is home to the brightest spots on Ceres, is approximately 56 miles (90 kilometers wide). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Color-coded topographic map of Occator crater on Ceres produced from Dawn spacecraft imagery.
Blue is the lowest elevation, and brown is the highest. The crater, which is home to the brightest spots on Ceres, is approximately 56 miles (90 kilometers wide).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

 

Data gleaned by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft at Ceres has provided another type of look at the puzzling Occator crater.

NASA has released a color-coded topographic map of the bright spots found within the 56 miles (90 kilometers wide) crater.

The topographic images of Occator (oh-KAH-tor) show the brightest spots and a cone-shaped 6-mile-high (4-kilometer-high) mountain.

This view, made using images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, features a tall conical mountain on Ceres.  Elevations span a range of about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the lowest places in this region to the highest terrains. Blue represents the lowest elevation, and brown is the highest. The white streaks seen running down the side of the mountain are especially bright parts of the surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI

This view, made using images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, features a tall conical mountain on Ceres.
Elevations span a range of about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the lowest places in this region to the highest terrains. Blue represents the lowest elevation, and brown is the highest. The white streaks seen running down the side of the mountain are especially bright parts of the surface.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI

Scientists are still trying to identify processes that could produce these and other unique “Cerean” phenomena.

Closer looks slated

The Dawn spacecraft is currently orbiting Ceres at an altitude of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). At that height the spacecraft will image the entire surface of the dwarf planet up to six times in this phase of the mission.

Each imaging cycle takes 11 days.

Starting in October and continuing into December, Dawn will descend to its lowest and final orbit, an altitude of 230 miles (375 kilometers).

The spacecraft will continue imaging Ceres and taking other data at higher resolutions than ever before at this last orbit. It will remain operational at least through mid-2016.

Twofer targeting

Dawn is the first mission to reach a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two distinct extraterrestrial targets: It arrived at Ceres on March 6, 2015 and carried out observations of Vesta in 2011 and 2012.

Dawn’s mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

More information about Dawn is available at the following sites:

http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov

http://www.nasa.gov/dawn

 

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