Imaging Icy Worlds: Dawn, Cassini and New Horizons Promise a Hot Summer

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

2015 is shaping up as a banner year for imaging icy worlds.  The ion powered Dawn probe arrived at the Dwarf planet Ceres in the Main Asteroid Belt on March 6th, and is currently on that world’s shadowed side, still firing its engines as it seeks a circular science orbit which it should achieve on April 23rd.

Further out at Saturn, after two years in a high polar orbit which took it out of range of most of the planet’s moons, NASA’s Cassini probe is now in an equatorial orbit which will allow flybys of Titan (4), Enceladus (3) and Dione (2). Two views of Saturn’s moon Rhea, taken on February 9th, are shown in the image above.

Is also not too early to set your calendars for July 14th, and the New Horizon spacecraft’s close flyby of former major planet Pluto, which even though demoted to dwarf planet status, has its own system of moons including tidally locked Charon. (First images will not be available until the 15th)  JPL has a countdown clock here.


Posted in: Asteroids, Outer Planets

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