Flying over a Dwarf Planet

Ever want to fly over a Dwarf planet? Of course you did…movie links and more dwarf planet goodness below the fold.


NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been flying over Ceres (and we’ll have a competition later for seeing which of the dwarf planets is prettier, Ceres or Pluto).
Check it out here:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/details.php?id=1380

For those who aren’t in the know, dwarf planets are “things that kind of like planets”, but fail to follow the official International Astronomical Union (IAU) definition for a planet (which you can find here). In general, you can think of dwarf planets in general as oversized asteroids that have formed themselves into a (mostly) spherical shape. Until New Horizons gets to Pluto we don’t really know what it’s shape is (it’s too small even for Hubble to really get a clear picture of it).

Dawn’s visit to Ceres and New Horizon’s visit to Pluto represent only the start of the detailed study of dwarf planets. It looks kind of like our own Moon, which I’m sure motivated the awesome poster below from Space.com that shows all of the dwarf planets that we know about. I’m sure there’s lots more awesome science to come!

dwarf-planets-121120b-02

 

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