(AP) The mysterious dwarf planet Ceres is ready for its close-up.
Located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres was the largest unexplored space rock in the inner solar system.
But that distinction ended Friday, when NASA's Dawn spacecraft arrived after a nearly eight-year journey, which included a stopover at the asteroid Vesta. It's now circling the dwarf planet on a 16-month mission.
Advertisement - story continues below
Launched in 2007 and powered by ion propulsion engines, Dawn will make the first close-ups of a dwarf planet, which won't begin until mid-April when the spacecraft emerges from Ceres' shadows.
Dawn will study Ceres for 16 months from varying altitudes, getting as close as 235 miles above Ceres' surface, or the distance of the International Space Station above Earth. The spacecraft will take sharper images of the mysterious spots and use its instruments to confirm whether Ceres' surface is still active and spewing plumes of water vapor.