LOS ANGELES — A NASA spacecraft for the first time has arrived at a dwarf planet to begin a 16-month exploration.
The space agency on Friday confirmed that the Dawn craft entered orbit around Ceres in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Unlike other orbit captures that requiring thruster firings to slow down, Dawn gradually slipped into place.
The encounter occurred when Dawn was pointed away from Earth so it took some time before flight controllers could confirm the craft was healthy.
Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, is the second and final stop for Dawn, which previously visited the asteroid Vesta.
Ceres is the first of two dwarf planets to receive visitors this year. This summer, another NASA spacecraft — New Horizons — will make a stop at Pluto, the one-time ninth planet.