US space agency NASA has said that its space probe involving Dawn spacecraft has commenced orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres in order to make valuable discovery into the main asteroid belt of our solar system.
The probe, which is the first to orbit a dwarf planet, will continue to stay for 16 months over the celestial body that has remained mysterious for the scientists for long. The main aim of the probe is to study Ceres’ structure and collect important clues about the dwarf planet in order to help the mankind in better understand the formation of the planets.
The space probe was captured by the gravity of the dwarf planet at 1239 GMT, around 38,000 miles (61,000 km) from the surface of Ceres.
About an hour later, the spacecraft sent a signal to the mission controllers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA in Pasadena, California. “It was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine,” NASA said in a statement.
Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, “Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometer) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres, home.”
Ceres is the largest known object located in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. Protoplanet Vesta is the second largest known celestial object found in the asteroid belt. Dawn spacecraft orbited around the protoplanet Vesta between July 2011 and September 2012, before finally leaving for Ceres.
Ceres has an average diameter of 590 miles. It makes a full rotation in every nine hours. NASA is hoping for a large amount of data once the spacecraft’s orbit commences and it begin sending more and more valuable images.