The Dawn mission was launched on 27 September 2007. The objective of the mission is the most thorough investigation of the asteroids Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. With Dawn, researchers expect to find out what happened during the first few millions of years after the planets were formed.
Varied impact craters, valleys, canyons and mountains among the highest in the Solar System are revealed on the first images of the asteroid Vesta.
The Occator crater on the dwarf planet Ceres is a real eye-catcher: with a diameter of 92 kilometres, it is larger than Tycho crater on the Moon – which appears like a bright spot when seen with the naked eye. The Occator crater's steep walls stand tall at over 2000 metres, higher than the North face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps.
The dwarf planet Ceres would be quite an uncomfortable place if one were to actually stand on its surface – with a rather 'chilly' temperature of minus 60 degrees Celsius by day, which gets colder during the night. Hard, frozen ground and craters spanning kilometres – in all shapes and sizes.
Currently just 385 kilometres away from the surface, the Dawn spacecraft is orbiting Ceres and acquiring images that show the dwarf planet at an unprecedented resolution of just 35 metres per pixel. These images allow scientists to look at a surface strewn with craters, fractures, domes and bright areas.