NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is currently located at an altitude of roughly 1,200 miles, which is the closest it could get to Ceres, a dwarf planet deemed the largest space body in the asteroid belt.
Though Dawn stopped gathering scientific data for the moment, it is expected to resume activity after it enters a lower-orbit in mid-August.
Yet, the data beamed back to Earth so far is intriguing enough to make space fans and scientists alike dream about the mysteries of this bizarre world, which now poses more questions than the answers it provides.
Last week, NASA released a short video on a couple of mystery white spots inside 2-mile-deep crater and a 4-mile tall pyramid-like mountain. The video (see below) also shows that the mysterious pyramid-shaped structure, which is one of the tallest landforms on Ceres’ surface, is dark on one side and features bright streaks on the other side. These features puzzled scientists as much as its shape.
The mystery bright blobs detected in a crater on the planet’s northeastern region have also been giving scientists the headaches for months now. There are all kinds of theories that run across the Internet from alien bases to space geysers. Some scientists even said that they may signal volcanic activity, while others believed that the spots were just icy surfaces.
A recent 3-D model of the spots and the crater that hosts them, Occator, ruled out the ice theory. Scientists measured the surfaces’ albedo, or quantity of reflected light, and found that it doesn’t’ match ice’ reflectivity. NASA team now thinks that the spots may be large surfaces covered in salt. But that is just a theory, which may be confirmed as Dawn gets to a lower altitude latter this month.
So, we have mystery spots and a pyramid-shaped mountain. Lately, some scientists’ focus switched to the mountain. They said that if they manage to learn what forces shaped it and why it has such a bizarre form they may learn more about the geology and history of the complex dwarf planet.
NASA team believes that the bright streaks on one of the mountain’s sides may have a common nature with the two spots in Occator. But they expect to get a clear answer by the end of this year when Dawn will make its closest approach.
The heavily edited video presents a 3-D view of the remote planet and was designed to popularize the new findings of the 446-million spacecraft launched by the U.S. space agency in 2007. The images are animated and sometimes exaggerated for a full dramatic effect. The short clip can also be watched with 3-D glasses on.
Image Source: Tech Times
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