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Launched in September 2007 with the mission of studying two of the three known protoplanets of the asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres, the Dawn Spacecraft is currently in orbit about its second target, the dwarf planet Ceres.

After spending more than eight months studying Ceres at an altitude of about 240 miles (385 kilometers), closer than the International Space Station is to Earth, Dawn headed for a higher vantage point in August. In October the spacecraft returned images and other valuable insights about Ceres.

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This image of Ceres shows a section of the northern hemisphere. Prominently featured is Occator Crater, home of Ceres’ intriguing brightest areas.

Dawn took this image on Oct. 17 at a distance of about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers) above the surface.

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This image of Ceres shows a portion of Occator Crater (lower right) and of the Kaikara Crater (top left).

Dawn took this image on Oct. 17 at a distance of about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers) above the surface.

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This image features the Zadeni Crater on Ceres. This large southern-hemisphere crater is 79.5 miles (128 kilometers) in diameter and is named for an ancient Georgian god of bountiful harvest.

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