NEWS

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Of Dwarf Planet Ceres, Blows Our Collective Minds

03/06/2015 10:51 EST | Updated 03/06/2015 10:59 EST

Humanity is reaching ever further into the deepest realms of space, and NASA has achieved an historic first as its Dawn probe arrived at dwarf planet Ceres at about 7:39 a.m. ET today.

Dawn is the first spacecraft to ever orbit a dwarf planet. At a cost of $473 million (USD), Dawn's mission is to observe Ceres over the next 16 months.

The Dawn mission launched in September 2007 to study Vesta and Ceres, the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is about 950 kilometres wide. The probe had to travel some 4.8 billion kilometres to each its goal.

Some researchers believe Ceres is capable of supporting microbial life -- the dwarf planet may once have had (and might still have) an ocean of liquid water beneath its surface -- and it's one of the reasons NASA sent the probe.

Ceres recently hit the news when NASA was baffled by two shining spots that appeared on its surface. It seems like the answer to that mystery, and more, could be potentially answered by this mission.

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