Dawn probe reaches Ceres orbit!
Or as I like to call it, a Ceres circuit. Ba-dum-bum!
But Ceres-ly, folks…
This morning, at about 1239 GMT (or 7:39 AM where I am), the Dawn space probe successfully entered orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. The NASA press release is here:
Unfortunately, Dawn is currently on the dark side of Ceres, and is orbiting slowly enough that it won’t come around to the light side until mid-April. So the best we get for a photo at the moment is this one from March 1:
This is historic as the first orbit of a dwarf planet (the New Horizons probe later this year will only fly by Pluto, I believe) and the first time a probe has orbited two different bodies. And it’s significant to me since it means Dawn has now visited both of the Main Belt protoplanets featured in Only Superhuman, first Vesta back in 2011 and now Ceres. With Vesta, the timing was right to let me incorporate a bit of what Dawn discovered into the novel during the revision process — but with Ceres I just have to hope nothing contradicts what I wrote. My main description of Ceres in the book was as follows:
The sunlit side of the dwarf planet was a dusty gray, except for the bright glints where craters or mining operations had exposed fresh ice beneath.
So far, so good, I’d say, given the other photo we got recently:
Scientists are speculating that those bright spots might be exposed ice, or maybe salt. Although you know what they kinda look like to me?
The on switch.
More news as it develops…