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Images Of Dwarf Planet Ceres Captured By Dawn Spacecraft

PASADENA ( — NASA's Dawn spacecraft captured the sharpest images ever of the dwarf planet Ceres, Jet Propulsion Laboratory officials said Thursday.

The pictures were snapped from a distance of about 90,000 miles, the closest a camera had ever come to Ceres, a JPL statement said.

"At a resolution of 8.5 miles per pixel, the pictures represent the sharpest images to date of Ceres." it said.

After the spacecraft arrives and enters into orbit around the dwarf planet, it will study it in great detail, according to JPL. Ceres, with a diameter of 590 miles, is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Dawn's mission to Ceres and Vesta – another resident of the asteroid belt – is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

JPL says that when the fuel used by Dawn's positioning thrusters runs out, "the mission will be over and Dawn will become a permanent human-made moon and orbiting monument around Ceres."

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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