You don’t always need the imagination of a science fiction writer to take you to an exciting new world in the cosmos, not when we can do it ourselves, with our own technology, right in our own backyard.
NASA‘s Jet Proulsion Laboratory has released a simulated flight over Ceres, a dwarf planet in our own solar system, using enhanced images from the Dawn spacercraft. It “explores the most prominent craters, as well as the mountain Ahuna Mons.” And the list of craters sounds like they were created in some sort of epic science fiction novel: Occator, Ikapati, Urvura, Haulani, Yalode, and Dantu.
Ceres was initially discovered in 1801, and was at first considered a planet, then an asteroid, before finally getting its dwarf planet status. It is found between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt, and makes up 25 percent of the belt’s total mass. If you’re like me and didn’t know much about Ceres before, NASA has tons of incredible information about the planet that, at roughly 590 miles across, is the size of Texas.
The images used to make the video came from the Dawn spacecraft, which was launched in 2007, and first “orbited and explored the giant protoplanet Vesta in 2011-2012,” before moving onto Ceres, which it is now orbiting. This makes the Dawn the “first spacecraft to orbit two planetary bodies in one mission.” By enhancing the color of the images it “helps make visible the subtle difference in the appearance of surface materials.”
Why might we be interested in exploring a little planet in an asteroid belt? Because even though it looks like a big rock it “has more in common with Earth and Mars and, sorry to bury the lede here, but “there may even be water ice buried” underneath its crust.
Maybe some day we won’t have to watch a simulated flight of Ceres, we’ll just have to look out our window.
What are some of your favorite real places in space? Journey to our comments section to let us know.