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Sci-Tech

Take a fascinating flight around dwarf planet Ceres in new NASA video

Using a series of photos captured by the Dawn spacecraft, along with the addition of a background star field, NASA has created a fun trip around Ceres.

Every 3.1 days, NASA's Dawn spacecraft circles dwarf planet Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt found between Mars and Jupiter. Using high-tech imaging equipment, the ion-propulsion-powered craft has been sending back images of Ceres for months now, including the well-known ones of its mysterious " bright spots."

Now, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) has taken a bunch of those images and stitched them together to create the above video, published Monday, which shows what it would feel like to fly all around Ceres. Adding to the reality of the simulation, a star field was added to the background.

The images that make up the video were taken from Dawn's first mapping orbit of Ceres, in which the spacecraft was 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers) away, along with images taken from 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) away.

While the resolution is impressive enough, NASA says that on June 5, Dawn was just 2,700 miles (4,400km) from the dwarf planet's north pole and that it's begun its second mapping orbit -- which is expected to return images that are three times as sharp as those from its first orbiting phase. So maybe we can expect ever better video from the space agency in a few more months.

Dawn was launched on September 27, 2007, and has already orbited the giant asteroid Vesta in 2011-2012. According to NASA, Dawn is the first spacecraft to orbit two different extraterrestrial bodies and the first to ever orbit a dwarf planet.