Note: Simulations are now being updated on this page on a weekly basis, and will soon resume updating more frequently.
Want to know how far away Dawn is, or how fast it is traveling? These questions have multiple answers since the answer depends on what you use as a reference frame. Each simulation gives the answer to both of these questions with respect to the Sun, Ceres, Earth, and Vesta. Click on the five simulated views below to see a larger view.
The Dawn trajectory is color-coded to provide information about when Dawn is using one of its ion thrusters and when it is coasting. The orbits of Earth, Mars, Vesta and Ceres are also given. The other four views use Dawn as a reference point, as if you were near the spacecraft looking at the Sun, Ceres, Earth, and Vesta. These views show the spacecraft in its true orientation as though you were viewing each given object. If the plasma trail is present, an ion thruster is operating; if the trail is not present, Dawn is coasting. The images are updated regularly with time given in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).
For another terrific visualization of the Dawn spacecraft, Ceres and Vesta, explore NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System.
Simulations courtesy of Gregory J. Whiffen, JPL