The Dawn mission was launched on 27 September 2007. The objective of the mission is the most thorough investigation of two asteroids: Vesta and 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.
Planetary scientists have never seen dwarf planet Ceres from this close up. The German-developed Framing Camera on board NASA's Dawn spacecraft acquired this image on 25 January 2015 from a distance of just 237,000 kilometres.
Planetary scientists at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) may find a thick ice crust with an ocean underneath when the NASA Dawn spacecraft arrives at Ceres in March 2015. Even now, from a distance of 383,000 kilometres, the first surface features are visible.
With a diameter of nearly 1000 kilometres, it was the largest known asteroid – and yet Ceres, which was 'promoted' from asteroid to dwarf planet in 2006, is just nine pixels wide in the image acquired by the Dawn spacecraft on 1 December 2014.