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On August 24th 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially labeled Ceres as a "Dwarf Planet" (see "Dwarf Planets" topic page), along with Pluto and Eris. Which makes it a promotion for Ceres, and a demotion for Pluto.
Ceres lies in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
It was discovered January 1st 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi (see "Giuseppe Piazzi" in the "Astronomers Gallery" elsewhere on this site).
Piazzi was searching for a star listed by Francis Wollaston as "Mayer 87" because it was not in Mayers zodiacal catalogue in the position given. Instead, Piazzi found a moving star-like object, which he thought at first was a comet. Piazzi observed Ceres a total of 24 times. On January 24th, 1801, Piazzi announced his discovery in letters to fellow astronomers.
Ceres takes its name from the Roman goddess, Ceres - the goddess of growing plants and of motherly love.
Ceres is at hydrostatic equilibrium (almost round), it measures 975km x 909km. It takes Ceres 1680 days to orbit the Sun, traveling at a speed of 17,882km/s. It lies at a distanc of 419,000,000km from the Sun.
Ceres is so huge that it contains about a third of the asteroid belt's total mass.
When Ceres was first discovered, it was considered to be a planet, but as many more "planets" were discovered between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, it was reclassified as an "asteroid", meaning "star-like", a term coined by Uranus's discoverer, William Herschel.
NASA's "Dawn" mission will be the first probe to visit Ceres. It will reach the Dwarf Planet around 2014 or 2015.

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