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From about three times the distance from Earth to the moon, NASA's Dawn spacecraft spies its final destination -- the dwarf planet Ceres.
The resolution of this image does not yet exceed the best views of Ceres, which were obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope (see PIA10235). Nonetheless, Ceres' spherical shape is clearly revealed here. Sunlight illuminates the dwarf planet from the right, leaving a sliver of the surface in shadow at left.
A zoomed-in view is provided in Figure 1, along with the original unmagnified, uncropped view.
The image was taken on Dec. 1, 2014 with the Dawn spacecraft's framing camera, using a clear spectral filter. Dawn was about 740,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Ceres at the time. Ceres is 590 miles (950 kilometers) across and was discovered in 1801.
The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington D.C. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. The Dawn framing cameras were developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen, Germany, with significant contributions by DLR German Aerospace Center, Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig. The Framing Camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR, and NASA/JPL.
More information about Dawn is online at http://www.nasa.gov/dawn.