The NASA Dawn spacecraft is in a new, lower mapping orbit of 915 miles above the dwarf planet’s surface, but an embargo by the journal Nature is preventing the release of new images taken closer to the Occator crater and its mysterious, persistent “bright spots.”
September 3, 2015 – Los Angeles, California- The Dawn Mission’s Principal Investigator is Christopher Russell, Ph.D., Professor of Geophysics and Space Physics at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA). Prof. Russell has spent fifteen years working on NASA’s Dawn mission to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter where Dawn first photographed asteroid Vesta and is now in a new mapping orbit around the enigmatic dwarf planet Ceres.
The identity of a very bright pattern of white spots in a Northern Hemisphere crater called Occator has been a mystery and fueled public interest in Dawn getting much closer in its photographs, hoping lower altitude would clearly show what the white, bright spots are.
Prof. Russell had suggested I call him the first week of September for a news update as Dawn would be at about 915 miles above the Ceres surface in a new mapping orbit. So we set Tuesday, September 1, for a recorded interview. I had expected to see a lot of new bright spots photographs before the interview, so I began by asking why the 4-mile-high shiny, pyramid-shaped mountain is the only new image released, dated August 19, 2015, in the Ceres southern hemisphere far from the bright spots in Occator crater on the 22nd degree latitude in the northern hemisphere?
Dawn Mission’s Principal Investigator Christopher Russell, Ph.D., Professor of Geophysics and Space Physics, University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA): “THE ONLY RECENT PHOTO THAT I HAVE FOUND WAS DATED AUGUST 19, 2015, OF THE FOUR MILE HIGH SHINY MOUNTAIN. IT WAS A PUZZLE TO ME IF WE HAVE THAT IMAGE FROM AUGUST 19TH, WHY DO WE NOT HAVE MORE IMAGES OF THE BRIGHT SPOTS IN OCCATOR CRATER?
Well, we do. We’re now, today, taking data at our second best resolution (December 2015 will be even closer at 235 miles above the Ceres surface), and the images have come in. We were just ready to submit with the press release written and the images of the bright spots were in our press release. And then, we realized that one of the investigators had sent in a paper to the publication Nature, which required an embargo for us not to talk before publication — and the paper is about the bright spots, making an interpretation of what the bright
WHAT IS THE EMBARGO DATE?
Well, you know, the trouble with getting involved with these journals, the paper’s been sent out for review, but it isn’t accepted, so we’re in this Never Never Land of not knowing. But the new pictures are lovely.
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