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NASA Probe Reaches Dwarf Planet Between Mars And Jupiter

The NASA space probe Dawn has started orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres after a nearly eight-year flight.

NASA confirmed on March 6 that the probe "slid into Ceres' gravitational embrace."

Dawn will circle Ceres for 18 months photographing the surface and trying to discover what is causing shiny parts on the dwarf planet, which scientists believe to be either ice from asteroids that have impacted on the surface or salt deposits.

Ceres is located in the solar system's main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter and is littered with debris that has collected there over the last 4.5 billion years.

NASA launched the probe in 2007 as part of a program to discover the origins of the solar system and the possibility of micro-organisms on Ceres.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and dpa