Two shiny spots have been observed off the surface of dwarf planet, Ceres. Scientists are still unsure as to their origin. One of the theories entails ice volcanoes that have led to the appearance of bright spots.
Photo credits: NASA
Our universe is so vast that it is safe to say that even the minute percentage of what we think we know is still incomplete and imperfect knowledge. Of the mysteries that exist out there is dwarf planet Ceres that is currently shining two lights at a NASA spacecraft that has left scientists puzzled and clueless.
Ceres, categorised as a dwarf planet, is situated between Mars and Jupiter in an asteroid belt. The Dawn spacecraft of NASA has been approaching Ceres. On the 19th of February, the picture shown above was taken from a distance of 29 000 miles. Two shiny spots located on the same basin were seen. Pictures taken from further away showed only one light though.
Picture taken by Dawn spacecraft at around 29 000 miles
It is not known to the experts as to the origin and cause of the two lights.
Andreas Nathues, the lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, said in a statement:
“This is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us. The brightest spot [of the two] continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres.”
Source of the lights
- The lights might be the result of ice; water vapour was observed from the surface of the planet before. However, ice would reflect more than 40 % of the light hitting it, and the two lights seems to reflect only 40 %. This discrepancy might be due to the resolution of the camera of Dawn spacecraft taking the pictures from a distance.
- The shiny spots can also be salt patches.
- Yet another explanation might be about ice volcanoes. Since the bright spots are close together, it has been suggested that they have a geologic origin. For instance, a volcanic process could have caused them to appear off the surface of the planet.
Higher-resolution images will hopefully shed more light on the two shiny ‘dots’.