The NASA spacecraft on its way to the largest body in the asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter, made a clear picture of its ultimate goal - Ceres.
Spacecraft Dawn, which had previously studied Vesta for 14 months - the protoplanet and the second largest body in the main asteroid belt, will go into Ceres orbit on March 6.
On Tuesday, at a distance of less than 150 million miles, the NASA spacecraft made new images of Ceres. Dawn now provides more detailed images than the Hubble Space Telescope.
"Photos taken on Sunday show some dark areas of the southern hemisphere of Ceres that can be craters," said Carol Raymond, deputy chief investigator for the mission. With a diameter of about 590 km, Ceres is the largest body in the main asteroid belt. Scientists suspect that it had an underground ocean at some point in the past and may still have liquid water under its surface.
Analysis of early images also shows that Ceres may have at least one large extended structure.
“If the nature of this structure is tectonic, it should give us an idea of the internal processes of this small planet,” co-investigator Mark Sykes said in a statement.
Discovered in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet that was later classified as an asteroid. It was defined as a dwarf planet like Pluto in 2006.