It’s startling to think that the Dawn spacecraft, now orbiting Ceres at its lowest altitude ever, may have fired its ion engine for the last time. The event occurred by way of positioning the spacecraft for the best possible track near Cerealia Facula, which is a prominent deposit of sodium carbonate in the center of the crater called Occator. Data from the spacecraft’s visible and infrared imaging spectrometer had been used to identify the bright areas called faculae as calcium carbonate deposits earlier in the mission. Vinalia Faculae is in the same area.
“Acquiring these spectacular pictures has been one of the greatest challenges in Dawn’s extraordinary extraterrestrial expedition, and the results are better than we had ever hoped,” said Dawn’s chief engineer and project manager, Marc Rayman, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “Dawn is like a master artist, adding rich details to the otherworldly beauty in its intimate portrait of Ceres.”
Image: A prominent mound located on the western side of Cerealia Facula, in an image obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on June 22, 2018 from an altitude of about 34 kilometers. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.
You’ll recall the intriguing bright material that began showing up during Dawn’s approach ...