NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has lowered itself closest ever to Ceres dwarf planet to take pictures of Kupalo crater in its finest detail that gives insights into what the surface of Ceres or any dwarf planet would be.
As Dawn’s pictures last year showed some salt deposits in brightest glows on Ceres, the recent picture of Kupalo Crater shows the bright material, whaich is expected to be a salt rim on its side that could have formed due to impact from melting and debris falling on it.
Earlier pictures showed similar glowing regions called “Bright spots” on Ceres at Occator crater. The latest image was taken by dawn from its current altitude of 385 km from Ceres.
Kupalo, located at southern mid-latitudes, measures 26-km and takes its name from the Slavic god of vegetation and harvest.
“This crater and its recently-formed deposits will be a prime target of study for the team as Dawn continues to explore Ceres in its final mapping phase,” said Paul Schenk, a Dawn mission member at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston.
Next to salt rocks was a deep fracture on the floor of 126-km Dantu Crater, which resembles similar craters on Earth’s moon called Tycho Crater. The fracture could have resulted from the cooling of impact melt, or when the crater floor was uplifted after the crater formed, said scientists.
Dawn spacecraft will remain at its current altitude even after its prime mission ends on June 30, 2016 and it is expected to send more images with a closer look into the surface features of Ceres.
Dawn has traveled two different solar systems and is the first mission to visit a dwarf planet Vesta for 14 months in 2011 and 2012, before arriving at Ceres on March 6, 2015.