The first images of the Dwarf Planet Ceres was captured by the spacecraft Dawn on December 1st. Dawn was launched way back in 2007 aboard the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex 17-B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft was sent to study the asteroid belt and two specific targets- The asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.
The payload of the spacecraft Dawn is composed of two cameras, a visible and infrared mapping spectrometer which is capable of revealing surface minerals, as well as a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer which will help to identify elements which forms the outer portion of the asteroids. Dawn will also measure the gravity field as well as the composition of the interiors of both Vesta and Ceres.
According to NBC, the first images of Ceres are only 9 pixels wide but do reveal that Ceres is shaped round and true to form. The pale image of Ceres was taken from a distance of 740,000 miles. Ceres is only 590 miles wide and the picture was taken only to calibrate the camera aboard Dawn. In the coming days Dawn will capture clearer and better pictures of the dwarf planet.
The pictures taken by the Dawn spacecraft is not the best and a much clearer picture will emerge in March when the Dawn spacecraft starts to orbit the dwarf planet. Scientists hope to get a better picture of Ceres complete with its ice caps, clouds, and ice volcanoes. Astronomers predict that they will find evidence of water vapor on the dwarf planet in the form of vapor plumes erupting into space, possibly from volcano-like ice geysers on its surface.
There are still experts who contend that Ceres should be classified as a planet but the debate is still on. As of now Ceres just like Pluto is labeled as a dwarf planet after the latest but controversial new methods.