Dawn spacecraft arrives at dwarf planet Ceres | Science News

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Dawn spacecraft arrives at dwarf planet Ceres

Probe will start investigation of the early solar system

By
9:47am, March 6, 2015
illustration of Dawn spacecraft approaching Ceres

HOME STRETCH The Dawn spacecraft has arrived at Ceres, shown in an artist’s illustration, to begin a 14-month investigation of the dwarf planet.

The Dawn spacecraft has arrived at the dwarf planet Ceres.

After 7½ years trekking across the solar system — including a stopover at the asteroid Vesta — Dawn pulled up alongside Ceres March 6 and let the dwarf planet’s gravity take over, pulling the probe in for a closer look. In six more weeks, Dawn will be close enough to Ceres to begin its 14-month mission to map the dwarf planet in a quest for clues about the formation of the solar system.

Dawn is about “going back in time and visiting the basic remnants of objects that came together to form our planets,” Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said March 2 at a news conference.  

Researchers believe that Ceres is an intact protoplanet, a fossil from the beginning of the solar system. About 2.8

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