Published on Jan 19, 2015
The Dawn spacecraft observed Ceres for an hour on Jan. 13, 2015, from a distance of 238,000 miles (383,000 kilometres). A little more than half of its surface was observed at a resolution of 27 pixels. This video shows bright and dark features.
This video was created from an animated gif and has been looped five times.
For the full story see here: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php...
The Dawn mission Twitter has a bunch of images of Ceres that were just put up.
The Dawn probe is approaching Ceres (950 km diameter icy miniplanet) from sunward direction, so it sees the fully illuminated face. The range is now about one light second and Ceres looks 36% of the size of a full moon seen from Earth.
The plan is to go into polar orbit starting at altitude 13,500 km above surface, and if all goes well to eventually spiral down to circular polar orbit about 375 km above surface.
The next 2 months are critical. It is not clear to me that they will succeed in achieving stable circular polar orbit. They do not have a large supply of hydrazine propellant for attitude control. The main thrust is solar electric ion drive (about 1/10 of a Newton thrust). In order to have thrust they need the solar panels (a 60 foot spread) oriented to the sun. In order to have ample communication they need the large narrow-beam antenna aimed exactly at the Earth. To maneuver into orbit they need to have the thruster correctly tracking in a constantly changing direction.
The approach trajectory (planned for March) is interesting and is described using two diagrams in the November Dawn Journal (DJ). It involves a highly eccentric loop with some gravity assist to bring the probe up to speed. This is to make up for thrust lost in September when an energetic cosmic ray particle disabled electronics serving the propulsion system.