Earth’s moon, by comparison, is about 3,480 kilometres in diameter.
The solar-powered probe is expected to put itself into orbit around Ceres at 1.20pm Malta time, on Friday.
Scientists are eager for their first close-up look at a dwarf planet, believed to be a building block left over from the formation of the planets 4.6 billion years ago.
Another Nasa spacecraft, New Horizons, will fly by the distant dwarf planet Pluto in July. Pluto, once considered one of the planets of the solar system, was later downgraded to a dwarf planet.
Ceres, namesake of the Roman goddess of agriculture, is already providing intrigue.
Pictures relayed from Dawn last month show bright streaks on its surface, including two very bright spots inside a crater.
“These spots were extremely surprising,” Raymond said.
Scientists suspect Ceres may have had an underground ocean early in its history that later froze.
Impacting asteroids or comets could then have exposed patches of highly reflective ice.
Europe’s Herschel space-based telescope previously detected water vapour on Ceres, a clue that impacting bodies may periodically send plumes of watery material shooting into space.
“In the initial views of Ceres, we see many strange features: smooth areas, areas that chaotically fractured and craters of all shapes and sizes,” Raymond said.
“Of particular interest are the bright spots … which stand out against Ceres’s dark surface.”
It will take Dawn about a month to position itself for 14 months of observations of Ceres. In all, the mission is costing Nasa €423 million.
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