Using the hashtag #Ceres, NASA’s Dawn Mission Control announced on Twitter that the Dawn spacecraft had achieved orbit around the mini-planet Ceres. All of the team over at Amen Clinic has not only been following #Ceres, but have been retweeting the news, which I how I first saw the story.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently announced this momentous event, the first time a spacecraft has been in this close of one of the mini-planets that make up the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. On its way to it new home at Ceres, Dawn had a close encounter with asteroid Vesta, from where many fascinating images were returned to earth.
Over the next few days, NASA controllers will adjust Dawn’s orbit slowly to bring the craft closer to the tiny planet’s surface, and it is expected that this will bring with it much new data. Of particular interest to scientists will be clues to the early beginnings of the universe.
Objects such are Ceres and Vesta are what is known as “proto-planets”. It was from the joining together of such objects that the planets we see in Solar System were originally formed. These small objects have been described as “time capsules”, and the potential to allow scientists to learn much more about the very early formation of the universe.