Dawn is now closer than ever to Occator Crater, the source of some of those intriguing spots, and NASA has released a fresh look at what's inside. Automatic interplanetary station was recently discovered on Ceres, the existence of seasonal processes on the planet and confirm its geological activity.
But, Dawn probe snapped Occator Crater in 2015 for the first time.
NASA's Dawn mission flew at only 34 kilometers above Ceres on June 14th and 22nd, and, with these occasions, it caught the Occator Crater on camera again. Dawn's latest orbit brought the probe as close as 22 miles above Ceres' surface, about 1/10 the distance of its previous go around.
NASA's Dawn mission will soon come to an end, but before that happens, the spacecraft has been sending back its closest views of Ceres ever, including the sharpest details so far of the dwarf planet's freakish bright spots.
After spending more than three years in the vicinity of Ceres, NASA's Dawn spacecraft shifted to a new orbit, one that brings the probe closer than ever to the dwarf planet and provides an unprecedented opportunity to observe and understand odd features seen on the distant body. The photographs revealed unusual bright spots on the surface, which drew immediate attention from the scientific community.
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Cerealia Facula is now believed to be the largest deposit of sodium carbonate on Ceres, right in the centre of Occator Crater.
"We now hope to understand how the bright deposits outside the crater center came about - and what they tell us about Ceres' interior", Andreas Nathues from the institute stated in another statement.
"The first views of Ceres obtained by Dawn beckoned us with a single, blinding bright spot", said Carol Raymond of JPL, Dawn's principal investigator.
Before its recent descent, the closest Dawn had traveled to Ceres was 240 miles (385 kilometers). New measurements from Dawn's lower orbit will also give researchers data with finer resolution on Ceres' internal structure and global mineral composition. Mission controllers look forward to continued science from Dawn, but they have completed all planned firing sessions of the industrious engines. "While the extension of Dawn in ceras, it has been exciting to highlight the nature and history of this fascinating dwarf planet, and it is particularly appropriate that Don's final work will provide rich new data sets to test those principles".
According to Space.com, this is likely the last time that Dawn gets to turn on its superefficient ion engine, as the spacecraft is running out of fuel for its thrusters and is nearing the end of its life.