So far, NASA’s Dawn mission had revealed several intriguing landforms on Ceres’ surface from pyramid-shaped mountains to puzzling white blobs within one of its craters. Recently, Dawn mission team sifted through new data and used a computer model to learn what the mystery white spots may be.
Ceres’ mystery white spots were detected inside the dwarf planet’s Occator, a 6-mile-wide and 2-mile-deep crater. A 3-D computer model suggests that the mysterious formations are not ice, as scientists had previously imagined.
The team measured the different types of wavelengths the reflected light had. They concluded that the structures reflecting it couldn’t be made of ice. The blobs’ amount of reflected light, or the albedo, is also at odds with an ice surface hypothesis.
Chris Russell, Dawn mission’s head investigator and researcher at the University of California, said that his team was still “discussing theories” on what the mysterious white spots may represent.
The next hypothesis in line to be tested is salt. But before drawing definite conclusions, the research team waits for more accurate data from the Dawn probe.
‘We look forward to new, higher-resolution data from the mission’s next orbital phase,’
NASA researchers noted.
The team, however, managed to produce a 3-D map of Ceres’ surface. On the map Occator is located in the northern region, while the pyramid-shaped mountain lies in the southeast.
Scientists reported that they found other geological features that are interesting enough to be studied. For instance, in the south are two major impact basins dubbed Yalode and Urvara with outer cracks that extend away from them.
Ceres remains the largest object in the asteroid belt, although its size was downsized after Dawn’s flyover by 6 miles to 584 miles or 940 km. Dawn is the first craft to reach a dwarf planet. It hit the milestone on March 6, after it had orbited another large object in the asteroid belt called Vesta. Vesta was the chaste Roman goddess of home and family, while Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility.
Dawn probe currently doesn’t gather any more data on the dwarf planet. It is slated to enter a lower orbit in mid-August where it will be able to take a closer view on the planet from an observation point three times closer to Ceres than the previous one.
When that happens Dawn mission team hopes that the secret of the mysterious white spots would finally be unlocked.
Image Source: YouTube
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