Dawn now right between Vesta and Ceres

Friday, December 27, 2013

We'll probably see this mentioned in Marc Rayman's Dawn journal in a few days. Dawn has just reached the halfway point between Vesta and Ceres, halfway in the sense of distance between it and them, not necessarily total distance traveled, which is kind of a useless metric in space travel in any case.

The map shows Ceres right in between the two:


and in terms of distance it's a bit over 31 million km to each.



So how far is 31 million km? It's about 15 million km closer than Venus ever gets to us, and about the limit of the closest distance we could theoretically get to Venus without our orbits being disturbed. On the other hand, it's still some 80 times farther away than the moon, and since Ceres is much smaller than the moon:



that means that Ceres is still at the somewhat-brighter-star-than-average point from Dawn's point of view. Both the moon and Ceres have very low albedos, in spite of the impression given by the images we have of them.

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