Home > Asteroid, Ephemeris Program, NASA, Space exploration > 02/13/2014 – Ephemeris – Dwarf planet Ceres is the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.

02/13/2014 – Ephemeris – Dwarf planet Ceres is the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.

February 13, 2014

Ephemeris for Thursday, February 13th.  The sun will rise at 7:45.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 22 minutes, setting at 6:08.   The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:10 tomorrow morning.

The Dawn spacecraft is in the asteroid belt.  After spending a year orbiting the asteroid Vesta two years ago, it has set its sights on Ceres, the largest asteroid, which was promoted by the same reasoning that Pluto was demoted, as a dwarf planet.  Recently it was announced that Ceres is out-gassing water molecules.  Dawn, with its ion engine is slowly approaching Ceres and will enter orbit of the body in April next year, a few months before the new Horizons spacecraft will fly by the dwarf planet Pluto on Bastille Day 2015.  Dawn will stay in orbit of Ceres for a year at least.   It will take at least several months to download all the images and data from the Pluto encounter from New Horizons, so we will have a very eventful 2015.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Dawn spacecraft at Vesta

Artist’s rendition of the Dawn spacecraft at Vesta. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Asteroid Belt

The asteroid belt n the inner solar system. Credit: NASA/JPL.

 

Dawn Orbital Track

Dawn orbital track past Mars, stopping at Vesta and continuing to Ceres. Credit: NASA/JPL.

The Dawn spacecraft uses ion propulsion, which though 10 times more efficient than chemical fuels, has the thrust comparable to that of the weight of a piece of a piece of paper.  Consequently the spacecraft spends most of its time thrusting.   Since it’s antenna is bolted on the spacecraft, it cannot thrust and communicate with the earth at the same time, so it has to stop thrusting and turn toward the earth to report back at scheduled intervals before resuming thrusting again.

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