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Ceres Awaits

Dawn is sneaking up on Ceres from behind. On March 6, this well-traveled spacecraft slipped into orbit around the dwarf planet (or asteroid; take your pick) after having spent 14 months orbiting the asteroid Vesta and more than two years

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Earth Calling Dawn

On March 6, the Dawn spacecraft was captured by the gravity of Ceres which is, depending on your preferences, either the largest asteroid of the solar system, or one of many dwarf planets. On its approach, Dawn’s cameras took these

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Dwarf Planets and New Planets, Oh My!

Just about the time that one NASA spacecraft is closing in on Ceres (formerly known as an asteroid, now semi-officially designated as a dwarf planet) and another nears its encounter with Pluto, a group of astronomers has suggested that there

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The formation of our solar system, with multiple planets and other bodies of varying sizes and compositions—this was not a simple process. The more planetary systems we discover around other stars, the more we confirm the truth of this. Scientists

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Astronomy in 2011

(This post has been edited slightly from the original to include the MESSENGER mission to Mercury and to correct a misstatement about galactic black holes.) As the end of calendar year 2011 approaches, I thought my readers might enjoy a look

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Pluto Has A New Moon

…which now makes four and counting. The new discovery comes via an eight-minute exposure (long in this context) of Pluto and its environs with the Hubble Space Telescope. Here is an image that may be a little different from what

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Ceres, Vesta and Dawn

On the very first day of the nineteenth century, January 1, 1801, a moving star-like object was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi in Sicily. Initially thought to be a comet and then a new planet, Ceres was eventually recognized as the

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