Dawn distance to Ceres now vs. in July when it leaves Vesta

Sunday, January 22, 2012

According to Dawn's official website, the distance from Dawn to Ceres is 0.9536 AU, a distance that is slowly decreasing as Vesta begins to catch up to the slower-orbiting Ceres. A closeup of the current position is as follows:


In addition, the current relative speed of Dawn to Ceres is 8.36 km per second. This rate will begin to slow down as the two approach each other, but Dawn will continue to approach Ceres even before it has left Vesta in July.

So what will things look like in July when it leaves? NASA's orbital simulator can show us. Here is the current position of the two:


And in July they will be here:


Perhaps about 0.5 AU by then. This is just a mashing of two images together (NASA's orbital simulator only allows you to see one object at a time) so there is no way to compare the distance of two selected objects with each other, and every computer I've had has had problems with Celestia so I won't be installing it to find out.

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