Nature

NASA Gets Incredible Photos of Texas-Sized Dwarf Planet

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Ceres was discovered in 1801, but scientists have jumped around a bit when it comes to its classification. Though Ceres was once considered a comet and an asteroid, NASA says it is now thought of as a dwarf planet that’s about the size of Texas and has only 9-hour days.

Ceres’s photos were taken by an orbiter called Dawn. According to MySA.com, “The Dawn spacecraft spent the first eight months of its orbiting journey studying Ceres from a distance of 240 miles, an altitude that NASA notes is closer than the International Space Station is to Earth. But starting in August, Dawn moved further and further away from Ceres.” The distance is what enabled the craft to take the stunning photos that are spreading across social media.

Dawn was launched back in 2007 with the goal of investigating Ceres and Vesta since they are the largest “protoplanets” in the region between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn already explored Vesta back in 2011-2012, so Ceres was its second “stop” on its out-of-this-world road trip. The craft is currently ascending to a higher orbit, and further updates can be read on NASA’s Mission Status Update website.