You need to upgrade your Flash Player The theme of this blog is not only and obviously space, but in particular “terrestrial worlds”, places that tend to have surfaces on which one could walk or at least attach oneself to. These places sometimes also have other earth-like familiar features such as atmospheres, weather, volcanos, geysers and perhaps, we are finding, even exotic oceans, rivers or lakes that are not necessarily made of familiar materials we are used to here at home. The second theme is imagery. Occasionally I do some retouching of images when needed if an image is incomplete or sometimes “dirty” or noisy. I will attempt to correct image shortcomings based upon other images or well-accepted presumed attributes. When this is done, notes will be offered as to what was added, why and sometimes how it was done. This way no one should ever wonder if something they are looking at is real or photoshop.

Dawn Begins Observations

The Dawn spacecraft is approaching Ceres and has begun observations, including this first animation. Ceres is a dwarf planet that resides within the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter and is the last unexplored spherical body (that we know of) that resides within the orbit of Neptune.

Earlier observations by the Herschel Infrared Space Observatory have suggested the presence of water vapor in the form of plumes near the surface of Ceres. There is even the chance that this comparatively tiny body may somehow maintain a tenuous atmosphere. If any of this turns out to be the case, we currently have no models to suggest how geological activity could be generated on such a small world. We have known for a very long time that internal heating and geological activity is common on bodies whose mass is large enough to create their own internal furnaces (Earth, Venus and gas giants like Jupiter). More recently we have discovered smaller geologically active worlds that generate internal heat from tidal forces inflicted by their host planet and neighboring moons (Io, Enceladus, probably Triton). But we have never seen such a small isolated body such as Ceres manage to do anything but display ancient craters and fracturing from cataclysms dating back to the formation of the solar system.

Logic tells me to expect to see a grey cratered ball when Dawn goes into orbit around Ceres this Spring, but the experience of Voyager and Cassini tells me not to expect anything but the unexpected.

Also, what is that bright dot? It has been in every image of Ceres since Hubble started observations to support the coming encounter.

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