New images of Ceres’ cratered surface taken February 12th from the Dawn Spacecraft.

New images of Ceres’ cratered surface taken February 12th from the Dawn Spacecraft.

What will the year of the Sheep bring? According to scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena it will be the year of the icy world. NASA’s Dawn Mission snapped the best images to date of icy dwarf planet Ceres on February 12th when it was 52,000 miles away and closing in fast. The unprecedented views reveal a cratered surface to Ceres, the largest member of the asteroid belt which forms a ring of rocky debris between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The cratered surface contradicts previous theories that it possessed a smooth one. Ceres is one of a few “water worlds” in our own solar systems which is ideal for study and has the potential to be habitable for microbial life.

Other missions planned by NASA include the New Horizon mission which will fly by the icy world Pluto this summer. In October, its Cassini mission is scheduled to soar so close to Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn, that it will fly through geysers of water that could reveal secrets of a subsurface ocean. And NASAs future icy world explorer, a mission to probe the ice-encrusted Jovian moon Europa, is taking shape in the minds of scientists and the drawing boards of engineers at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Read more about Astrobiology and the pursuit of icy worlds here: http://icyworlds.jpl.nasa.gov/