NASA’s Dawn just sent back to Earth some new pictures of Ceres. Scientists still cannot help but wonder what’s with the couple of mysterious bright spots that appeared in one of its largest craters.
Until now, scientists thought the luminous points were salt deposits reflecting the sun, but now that the agency received pictures of better quality with the planet’s surface, they are working to come up with some new theories.
When NASA first unveiled the incredible photos of the dwarf planet Ceres, the strange bright spots fascinated and confused scientists. In order to take a better quality of Ceres’ surface, scientists snapped a photo at a short exposure, and then combined it with another photo taken at a normal exposure – a technique known to be used in HDR (high dynamic range) photography. The result? Much more detailed images of the planet’s landscapes.
NASA’s Dawn spaceship has been mapping Ceres’ surface for about three weeks, while orbiting around the dwarf planet at an altitude of approximately 900 miles (1,400 kilometers). NASA also sent a spaceship to Pluto, it is called New Horizons. This spacecraft also sent photos back home from the more familiar dwarf planet, and it will continue to map the planet for a while until NASA receives a formal approval to sent their even farther from Earth, to the borders of our solar system – the Kuiper Belt.
Marc D. Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer, said that he is expecting the probe to conduct an even more detailed analysis of the chemical and geological properties of Ceres in order to find out what the peculiar bright spots actually are.
Two weeks ago, scientists detected within the crater a cluster of bright spots, which are surrounded by smaller bright spots of differing intensities and sizes. While the new pictures are much clearer than the ones the spacecraft previously sent, investigators still believe they could be just salt deposits or ice that is reflecting the sunlight.
Researchers at NASA say that new images from different angles will shed some light in the very near feature on what the bright spot’s are and what is their composition. After closely investigating the evidence, investigators are sure that the the dwarf planet is geologically active. Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Investigators also observed that the rim of the crater is vertical in some parts, rising smoothly to the crater’s top for nearly two kilometers. But the spotlight was stolen by the bright spots, which are unlike anything NASA discovered in its expeditions across our solar system.
Photo Credits flickr