NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes history as Ceres nears

December 30, 2014 4:36 PM

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NASA's Dawn spacecraft has emerged safely from the opposite side of the sun and is just months away from reaching Ceres, the distant and mysterious dwarf planet next on the list for its multi-year space survey. Dawn - which checks off on several factors more commonly associated with science fiction tropes, like ion drives and distant space exploration - launched back in 2007, and Ceres is in fact its second stop since then. Previously, the probe spent more than a year orbiting a protoplanet named Vesta, but scientists manning the project are if anything even more eager to see what it makes of Ceres.

That's because, while astronomers already had some understanding of Vesta's history, Ceres is a comparative mystery.

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