Ceres is being seen in new detail in new maps released by NASA. These are the first detailed maps of the body ever released, featuring official place names. The Dawn spacecraft, launched in 2007 and currently in orbit around Ceres, was utilized to record the data on which the new map was developed. 

Ceres orbits the sun within the main asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. The new map reveals differences in height on Ceres vary up to nine miles between the lowest and highest regions on the body. 

"The craters we find on Ceres, in terms of their depth and diameter, are very similar to what we see on Dione and Tethys, two icy satellites of Saturn that are about the same size and density as Ceres. The features are pretty consistent with an ice-rich crust," Paul Schenk, a geologist from the Lunar and Planetary Institute working with the Dawn science team, said

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the only body in the world vested with the power of officially naming bodies and features off the Earth, reports 18 place names for features on Ceres as of July 28. Names for these locations are drawn from the mythos of cultures around the world, including Asari, the Syrian god of agriculture, Kimis, who allegedly watched over cherry trees in Lithuania, and Fejokoo, the Nigerian god of yams. 

Occator is a large crater on Ceres, measuring 60 miles across and two miles in depth. This basin is named for the Roman deity of harrowing, a method of breaking up clods of soil left over after plowing. 

As the Dawn spacecraft closed in on Ceres, the vehicle saw bright spots on the surface of the asteroid that delighted and perplexed astronomers as well as the general public. One of those regions, which was temporarily labeled "Spot 1," has now been re-branded "Haulani," in honor of the Hawaiian Goddess of plants. This feature, stretching 20 miles from one side to another, is slightly colder than the surrounding material, a fact revealed in infrared images of the region. 

Dawn is currently moving to a lower orbit, which should allow the mission team to see Ceres in fine detail. Near the middle of August 2015, the observatory will reach its target altitude of just 900 miles off the face of the largest asteroid in the main belt. 

An animated video showing a false-color image of Ceres as it rotates is available on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory YouTube channel. 

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