Washington: NASA's Dawn spacecraft has recently captured the sharpest images ever seen of the Dwarf Planet Ceres, it has been revealed.
The images were taken 147,000 miles from Ceres on Jan. 25, and represent a new milestone for a spacecraft that soon will become the first human-made probe to visit a dwarf planet.
At 43 pixels wide, the new images are more than 30 percent higher in resolution than those taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 2003 and 2004 at a distance of over 150 million miles (about 241 million kilometers).
The resolution was higher because Dawn is traveling through the solar system to Ceres, while Hubble remains fixed in Earth orbit.
The new Dawn images come on the heels of initial navigation images taken Jan. 13 that reveal a white spot on the dwarf planet and the suggestion of craters. Hubble images also had glimpsed a white spot on the dwarf planet, but its nature was still unknown.
As the spacecraft gets closer to Ceres, its camera will return even better images. On March 6, Dawn will enter into orbit around Ceres to capture detailed images and measure variations in light reflected from Ceres, which should reveal the planet's surface composition.
Ceres, the largest body between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt, has a diameter of about 590 miles. Some scientists believe the dwarf planet harbored a subsurface ocean in the past and liquid water might still be lurking under its icy mantle.