New dwarf planet , Ceres, gets a visitor from Earth named Dawn

As the technology becomes more and more powerful and far advanced, humans gets better understanding of the solar System and even the whole universe as a whole.

In case you are still not aware that Pluto is now a dwarf planet and it is dislodged from being one of the major planets in the solar system, there are more dwarf planets that you need to know about and they are five of them to date and one is situated between Mars and Jupiter and its name is Ceres.

Ceres may not ring a bell but it was discovered in 1801, 129 years earlier than Pluto. Ceres was once considered as a planet then later regarded as an asteroid and until recently it is now has a status of being a dwarf planet. This means that the dwarf planet is on the same league together with Pluto.

The name Ceres which is pronounced like series is hugging the spotlight and shining brightly in newspapers and in online news websites and blogs. We will be probably hearing many more from this rocky planet in the coming days.

Ceres is one of the five recognized dwarf planets by National Aeronautics and Space Administration along with Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea.

Ceres is the first dwarf planet that will greet a visitor from our planet – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which is due to arrive on March 6, 2015.

Dawn project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Robert Mase quipped, “Ceres is a ‘planet’ that you’ve probably never heard of.”

Although regarded as a dwarf planet, it is actually a titan in the main asteroid belt, Dr. Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director of the Dawn mission said to CNN. Rayman also said that, “It is not only the largest object between Mars and Jupiter, it is the largest object between the sun and Pluto that a spacecraft has not yet visited.”

The people behind the mission are extremely excited as they have piloted Dawn for more than seven years on an interplanetary trip that already traveled 3 billion miles. The probe breezed past Mars and they have spent 14 months orbiting and examining the massive protoplanet Vesta. The moment of truth has finally arrive as NASA is on the brink of whipping up first ever exploration on the obscure dwarf planet which is the main objective of the mission

Dawn has snapped photographs on February 19 when it was 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) off Ceres and the images will reveal two spots on Ceres, a brighter one and a dimmer one. NASA says that the two spots seem to be on the same basin. The photos are quite perplexing to scientists as they say that they will just have to wait until Dawn gets in closer proximity to solve the puzzle.

The principal investigator for the Dawn mission and based at the University of California, Los Angeles, Chris Russell stated that, “We we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations.”

Rayman said that the surface of the dwarf planet is rough and that its craters show signs of “scars from life in the rough and tumble asteroid belt.”

Why conduct a study on a battered planet?  Rayman quipped that Ceres is a survivor and it is enveloped with mysteries. Composed of rocks and ice, Ceres may be teeming with bodies of water (ponds or lakes or even oceans) underneath its surface.

Rayman said “[Ceres] appears to have been in the process of growing to become a full-sized planet when Jupiter terminated its growth nearly 4.6 billion years ago.”

Learning more about Ceres will give the scientists a better understating of how the rest of the solar system was created and even the universe as a whole. It is of essence to conduct the since according Rayman as “…humans hunger [for] knowledge and understanding. Grand undertakings like this nurture our spirit.”

If one happens to learn about the solar system many moons back about two centuries, Rayman said that “you would have learned that Ceres was a planet, just as people who learned about the solar system in more recent generations learned that Pluto is.” But it is actually isn’t since it is now recognized as a dwarf planet.


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