The Dawn spacecraft is about to wrap up it’s11-year mission which has included visits to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres. It’s now in a low orbit around Ceres gathering images and other science data, but in few months, it will run out of fuel for it’s attitude control thrusters. It will no longer be able to keep it’s antenna pointed toward Earth and, contact will be lost. The spacecraft will remain in orbit around Ceres.
The Gentle Reader may remember those intriguing bright spots that mystified observers as Dawn approached Ceres. They turned out to be mineral deposits in a large crater named Occator. The images above are close ups of some of those deposits taken from an altitude of 35 km. The top picture is a mosaic of multiple images of the formation called Cerealia Facula in Occator Crater. The bottom is of Vinalia Faculae also in Occator.
Image Credits: NASA