Friday, March 6, 2015

Dawn Reaches Ceres

From the NASA site:
"NASA's Dawn spacecraft slipped into orbit around Ceres on Friday morning. Dawn's job is to tell all about the mini-planet, discovered more than 200 years ago. The biggest question is, of course, could Ceres harbor life?"

In my research, I discovered that Ceres has been considered an asteroid as well as a dwarf planet (or mini-planet, depending on the source). It was 'discovered' on January 1, 1801 by the Italian monk Giuseppe Piazzi, who also named it. He observed it for 41 days, fell ill, then lost it in the halo of the Sun.

The dwarf planet was named after the Roman goddess Ceres. Ceres is a goddess of agriculture, fertility, grain, midwifery. Ceres also supports death ~ the growth and intensity that occurs as death comes ever nearer. The soul grows and blossoms as that unknown, unknowable time approaches. She is the midwife at the gate between the worlds.  Yet in that research, there is no reason given why an astronomer and monk would name an object in the night sky after a Roman goddess.

Another fascinating tidbit, from a 2008 report in New Scientist magazine, alleges that Ceres and Pluto were originally from the same place because they are comprised of the same compounds, which doesn't happen anywhere else in the Solar System, even though they are four billion kilometers apart (approximately). What makes this fascinating is that this corresponds to the mythology: Pluto and Ceres are siblings and part of the Olympian pantheon. Pluto takes Ceres daughter Proserpine away from the world of light and into the Underworld ~ difficult to reach and a significant distance away.

All of this information wrapped up together makes the news of the NASA spacecraft Dawn orbiting Ceres a more complex story than at first blush. I love how the science, astrological information and mythology come together. I believe in the veracity of the Chinese proverb: May you live in interesting times. I certainly do!

What do you think of the news about the NASA spacecraft Dawn? Are there other points you've learned about Ceres? What more would you want to learn? What do you think of the interweaving of science and myth?

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