Dwarf planet Ceres captured the world’s attention back in February when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft showed two white shiny spots in a huge crater on the heavenly body. Since then, Dawn has entered the planet’s orbit and brought forth more detailed images pertaining to Ceres.
In spite of the fact that Dawn has now captured more detailed pictures of Ceres, the two white patches remain unexplained.
On the other hand, researchers have confirmed that the spots do not fit the pattern of ice because the amount of light reflected by them is lower than figures pertaining to ice on the planet.
“The science team is continuing to evaluate the data and discuss theories about these bright spots at Occator,” said Chris Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator from the University of California, Los Angeles. “We are now comparing the spots with the reflective properties of salt, but we are still puzzled by their source. We look forward to new, higher-resolution data from the mission’s next orbital phase.”
Meanwhile, as the scientists are still debating as to the origin of the two white spots, the public has been asked to guess their identity. The public can choose an option, or vote for a new one, as to the source of the bright spots.
Another striking feature on its landscape is a cone-shaped mountain on the other side of Ceres that has left NASA scientists baffled. The latter cannot fathom how the land around the mountain is flat. Furthermore, one side of the feature has light patches while the other appears to be dark.
“This mountain is among the tallest features we’ve seen on Ceres to date,” said another Dawn scientist, Paul Schenk. “It’s unusual that it’s not associated with a crater. Why is it sitting in the middle of nowhere? We don’t know yet, but we may find out with closer observations.”
They are positive that they will soon come up with answers as Dawn is getting closer and closer to Ceres.
“Dawn has transformed what was so recently a few bright dots into a complex and beautiful, gleaming landscape,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director. “Soon, the scientific analysis will reveal the geological and chemical nature of this mysterious and mesmerising extraterrestrial scenery.”