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Emily LakdawallaMay 5, 2015

A week's worth of "RC3" images from Dawn at Ceres

Now that Dawn is in its science orbit at Ceres, the mission has been releasing new images every weekday! Here is a week's worth of views of Ceres, all of them taken from the first "rotation characterization" performed from the 13,500-kilometer science orbit. I have sorted them into rotational order so that you can see how features appear to change as they rotate into and out of sunlight. Dawn is looking at Ceres' south pole here, so Ceres appears to rotate clockwise from one image to the next. None of the famous bright spots is visible in these views, but there is some interesting crater morphology and various linear features scattered among the intercrater plains.

I could wander around and interpret the geology, but I think that would ruin your fun. With these images, released so soon after Dawn acquired them, you're getting the same opportunity the science team has: to see brand-new, better-than-ever views of a previously unexplored world in the solar system. You get a chance to be a Dawn scientist! Look at the images up close. Try to make observations without interpreting what you see -- just look for shapes and patterns. Compare and contrast features. Do all the craters of the same size look the same? Do all the areas outside same-size craters look the same? If not, what differences do you see?

Images of Ceres' south pole from Dawn's first science orbit

NASA / JPL / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA / collage by Emily Lakdawalla

Images of Ceres' south pole from Dawn's first science orbit
These 7 images of Ceres were taken from April 24 through 26, 2015, as Dawn examined its south pole from its first science orbit at an altitude of 13,500 kilometers. The images have been sorted into rotational order (though it may not be chronological order). Two of the images are blurrier than the other five; these were originally released as the green/blue channels of 3D anaglyphs and were probably rotated to align them with the red channels.

It can be a little hard to match craters because of the shifting illumination, so here's a guide.

Images of Ceres' south pole from Dawn's first science orbit (annotated)

NASA / JPL / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA / Emily Lakdawalla

Images of Ceres' south pole from Dawn's first science orbit (annotated)

The first week's worth of image releases included five distinct views, two of which were released as both ordinary images and 3D red-blue anaglyphs. But to make anaglyphs, you need two images taken from slightly different points of view; so the montage above includes the green channels of the released anaglyphs. Here are links to the original images, listed in their order in the collage above:

Now that you've had a chance to look at these images, I have to share something from that made me laugh that I'm now never going to be able to unsee:

Now that I've seen this on Ceres, I can never unsee it: #NCC1701 @NASA_Dawn

— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) May 5, 2015

Read more: pretty pictures, asteroids, Dawn, asteroid 1 Ceres

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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