Telescopes and advanced space cameras enable people to have a look at cosmic objects without having to fly miles and miles above Earth. What's exciting is that images of space materials keep getting better through time.
In a new short movie released by NASA, people may fly over the dwarf planet Ceres and marvel upon its crater-speckled surface via a new color animation technology.
The movie shows a simulated flight over Ceres using images captured by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from August 2015 to October 2015. The spacecraft circled the dwarf planet, which is situated in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. The high-resolution images were captured via a camera some 900 miles above Ceres.
The clip presents Ceres in enhanced, vivid colors to show the differences in the texture and appearance of the surfaces. The brownish surfaces are said to be rich in phyllosilicates, which is a typical component of clay. The blue areas consist of fresher and younger objects such as pits, flows and cracks.
Areas that exude the bright deposits are said to be the youngest of all fields in Ceres. These new materials may possibly be comprised of salts.
"The simulated overflight shows the wide range of crater shapes that we have encountered on Ceres," says Ralf Jaumann, a Dawn mission scientist.
The film includes the names of the craters for supplementary information. There are the high cone-like crater Ahuna Mons, the flat Yalode and Dantu craters and the prominently sheer Occator, among others. Their names sound whimsical because they are actually derived from earthly deities, agricultural spirits and festivals.
The creative genius behind the spectacular film is Dawn's framing camera team at the German Aerospace Center, DLR.
The Dawn mission is the first of its kind to visit Ceres. The spacecraft initially circled an asteroid called Vesta for a total of 14 months, before it arrived at Ceres in March 2015.
At present, Dawn is at its lowest and final mapping orbit, which is 240 miles above the dwarf planet's surface.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Dawn mission and UCLA is responsible for its scientific efforts.