The Administration encourages the lay public to give possible explanations for unexplained images, after NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spots unseen details on Ceres Dwarf planet. The recently sent footage shows around 10 bright spots appearing on the surface of the dwarf planet, Ceres and scientists are now taking turns guessing where the little lights may be coming from.
Besides the well-planned Mars related missions, NASA is also keen on discovering the mysteries of other distant or close planets. Such is the case of Ceres, a dwarf planet that the administration has been studying for a long time now. However, the best results were registered in the second half of May as the Dawn spacecraft sent new images of the celestial body.
The photos show that the surface of Ceres is covered with craters, which are said to have appeared during the impact with space debris. More specifically, the debris was re-impacted on the surface of the dwarf planet after being thrown away into the space by two colliding celestial bodies.
The small craters are not the ones to puzzle researcher at NASA, but rather the frequent luminous spots appearing on the planet’s surface. Numerous hypotheses have been released in relation to the origin of these bright spots, but scientists could not settle themselves to one particular explanation. They have, therefore, organized a contest giving people the possibility to guess what the bright spots may be.
Given the past images that scientists have collected from Ceres and the past activity that the planet has been involved in, scientists believe the bright spots are salt flats. These small patches of salt were left behind after the salted water evaporated from Ceres’ surface. They are now said to reflect the Sun’s light.
Another possibility is that certain areas on Ceres’ surface are covered with ice stemming from the dwarf planet’s frozen core. Ice, like saltwater, has the ability to reflect the sunlight.
Some researchers have put forward the idea, according to which the bright spots represent cryovolcanoes or water vapors, but these explanations have not yet been confirmed. Recent close-up photos show no raised surface around the bright patches, therefore, scientists doubt that there could be cryovolcanoes on Ceres’ surface shooting out water or ice.
NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft has circled the Ceres dwarf planet during a 15-day space travel. This was the closest that the space shift has got to the celestial body as the photos were captured at a 2,700 miles (4,400km) altitude.
Dawn will gradually get closer to the surface of the planet in the following months, as scientists plan to solve the mystery of the bright spots. The spacecraft is expected to reach the altitude of 225 miles (260km) by December 2015.
Image Source: Cnet