Dear Dawnniversaries

By Marc Rayman Today Dawn is celebrating its 11th anniversary of spaceflight. This is the last dawnniversary the spacecraft will see. The venerable adventurer’s mission will end very soon. Indeed, it could happen at any moment. In the meantime, Dawn is making the most of its remaining lifetime, performing exquisitely detailed measurements of dwarf planet Ceres. It will do so right to the very last moment.In the two Dawn Journals from last month, we described the end of the mission…

Dear Sinceres Readers,

By Marc Rayman People have been gazing in wonder and appreciation at the beauty of the night sky throughout the history of our species. The gleaming jewels in the seemingly infinite black of space ignite passions and stir myriad thoughts and feelings, from the trivial to the profound. Many people have been inspired to learn more, sometimes even devoting their lives to the pursuit of new knowledge. Since Galileo pointed his telescope up four centuries ago and beheld astonishing new…

Dear Dawnouements,

By Marc Rayman A fantastic story of adventure, exploration and discovery is reaching its denouement. In the final phase of its long and productive deep-space mission, Dawn is operating flawlessly in orbit around dwarf planet Ceres. As described in the previous Dawn Journal, every 27 hours the spacecraft swoops as low as about 22 miles (35 kilometers) above the ground, taking stunning pictures and making other unique, valuable measurements with its suite of sophisticated sensors. It then soars up to…

Dear Phendawnmenal Readers,

By Marc Rayman Dawn is going out on a high! Or maybe a low. Rapidly nearing the end of a unique decade-long interplanetary expedition, Dawn is taking phenomenal pictures of dwarf planet Ceres as it swoops closer to the ground than ever before. While the pictures are too new for compelling scientific conclusions to be reached, a clear consensus has already emerged: Wow!!!Every 27 hours, the bold adventurer plunges from 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) down to just 22 miles (35…

Dear Expecdawnt Readers

By Marc Rayman Propelled by the perfect combination of xenon ions, hydrazine rocket propellant and adrenaline, Dawn is on the verge of its most ambitious exploits yet. Having flawlessly completed its latest assignment to study Ceres, the veteran explorer is now aiming for a new low. Earlier today Dawn ignited ion engine #2 to start maneuvering to its lowest altitude above the dwarf planet. Soon the spaceship will be skimming closer to the alien landscapes of rock, ice and salt…

Dear Vernal Dawnquinoxes,

By Marc Rayman A veteran explorer is leisurely orbiting the only dwarf planet in the inner solar system. Measuring space radiation high over Ceres, Dawn revolves once every 30 days in its gravitational master’s firm grip. Dawn is well-known for its patience, and the pace of its activities has been decidedly relaxed in this orbit. That is about to change. There is now only one revolution to go before the spacecraft begins the final campaign of its long and rewarding…

Dear Long Disdawnce Travelers

By Marc Rayman Dawn has now logged 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) on its unique deep-space adventure. Sailing on a gentle breeze of xenon ions, the ambitious explorer journeyed for nearly four years to what had been only a small, fuzzy orb for over two centuries of terrestrial observations. Dawn spent more than a year there transforming it into a vast, complex protoplanet. Having sent its Vestan riches safely back to distant Earth, Dawn devoted another 2.5 years to…