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  • Dear Dawntasmagorias
    by Marc Rayman on November 11, 2018 at 8:00 am

    By Marc Rayman Following a successful mission, Dawn mission operations concluded successfully on Oct. 31. (Please note the understated elegance of that sentence.)After more than 11 years in deep space, after unveiling the two largest uncharted worlds in the inner solar system, after overcoming myriad daunting obstacles, Dawn's interplanetary adventure came to an end.  > Read mor […]

  • Dear Dawnniversaries
    by Marc Rayman on September 27, 2018 at 7:00 am

    By Marc Rayman Today Dawn is celebrating its 11th anniversary of spaceflight. This is the last dawnniversary the spacecraft will see. The venerable adventurer's mission will end very soon. Indeed, it could happen at any moment. In the meantime, Dawn is making the most of its remaining lifetime, performing exquisitely detailed measurements of dwarf planet Ceres. It will do so right to the very last moment.In the two Dawn Journals from last month, we described the end of the mission (and what will happen for the next few decades). But with the probe still operating, let's join it in reviewing how far it has come since leaving Cape Canaveral 11 years ago.  > Read mor […]

  • Dear Sinceres Readers,
    by Marc Rayman on August 23, 2018 at 3:00 am

    By Marc Rayman People have been gazing in wonder and appreciation at the beauty of the night sky throughout the history of our species. The gleaming jewels in the seemingly infinite black of space ignite passions and stir myriad thoughts and feelings, from the trivial to the profound. Many people have been inspired to learn more, sometimes even devoting their lives to the pursuit of new knowledge. Since Galileo pointed his telescope up four centuries ago and beheld astonishing new sights, more and more celestial gems have been discovered, making us ever richer. In a practical sense, Dawn brought two of those jewels down to Earth, or at least brought them more securely within the scope of Earthlings' knowledge. Science and technology together have uncloaked and explained aspects of the universe that would otherwise have seemed entirely inscrutable. Vesta and Ceres revealed little of themselves as they were observed with telescopes for more than two centuries. Throughout that time, they beckoned, waiting for a visitor from distant Earth. Finally their cosmic invitations were answered when Dawn arrived to introduce each of them to Earth, whereupon the two planet-like worlds gave up many of their secrets. Even now, Ceres continues to do so, as it holds Dawn in its firm but gentle gravitational embrace. Every 27 hours, almost once a day, the orbiting explorer plunges from 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) high to as low as about 22 miles (35 kilometers) and then shoots back up again. Each time Dawn races over the alien landscapes, it gathers information to add to the detailed story it has been compiling on the dwarf planet. > Read mor […]

  • Dear Dawnouements,
    by Marc Rayman on August 22, 2018 at 2:00 am

    By Marc Rayman A fantastic story of adventure, exploration and discovery is reaching its denouement. In the final phase of its long and productive deep-space mission, Dawn is operating flawlessly in orbit around dwarf planet Ceres. As described in the previous Dawn Journal, every 27 hours the spacecraft swoops as low as about 22 miles (35 kilometers) above the ground, taking stunning pictures and making other unique, valuable measurements with its suite of sophisticated sensors. It then soars up to 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) over the alien world before diving down again. While it is too soon to reach clear conclusions from the wealth of high-resolution data, some of the questions already raised are noteworthy: Are the new pictures totally awesome or are they insane? Are they incredible or are they unbelievable? Are they amazing or are they spectacular? It may take years to resolve such questions. The mission will end long before then, indeed very soon. In this Dawn Journal and the next one (which will be posted in about three Cerean days), we will preview the end. > Read mor […]

  • Dear Phendawnmenal Readers,
    by Marc Rayman on July 1, 2018 at 2:00 am

    By Marc Rayman Dawn is going out on a high! Or maybe a low. Rapidly nearing the end of a unique decade-long interplanetary expedition, Dawn is taking phenomenal pictures of dwarf planet Ceres as it swoops closer to the ground than ever before. While the pictures are too new for compelling scientific conclusions to be reached, a clear consensus has already emerged: Wow!!!Every 27 hours, the bold adventurer plunges from 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) down to just 22 miles (35 kilometers) above the alien world, accelerating to 1,050 mph (1,690 kph), and then shoots back up to do it all over again. (Try that, bungee jumpers!) > Read mor […]

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