In a bid to understand what Ceres really is and what forms the surface of this celestial body, as well as what lies underneath it, NASA has created a number of maps based on data retrieved from Dawn space probe.
Still, Ceres remains a baffling mystery. It has been labeled as an asteroid, a planet and even a dwarf planet bearing characteristics of a moon. But the true nature of Ceres still eludes scientists. Albeit the NASA space probe Dawn approaching the dwarf planet and capturing more high resolution images, the surface traits that are thus revealed do little to help scientists delve deeper into the surface composition, mineral composition or understanding the celestial body at large.
Dawn is deemed the first space probe to be orbiting a dwarf planet. Since over seven years ago when it was launched into space, Dawn has travelled three billion miles and reached Ceres only in March 2015. From here, it is slowly descending into orbit until in December it is expected that the space probe will reach 233 miles in altitude from the surface of Ceres.
Perhaps data and images retrieved then will shed further insight into the traits of the dwarf planet. For now, scientists are still puzzled by the images that are beamed back. This became more clear as Ceres has been a heated topic of debate during the European Planetary Conference taking place in Nantes, France.
Chris Russell, the main investigator with the Dawn Mission at the University of California, Los Angeles declared:
“Ceres continues to amaze, yet puzzle us, as we examine our multitude of images, spectra and now energetic particle bursts”.
In one of the maps created by NASA, one feature caught the attention of the public as well, at NASA’s invitation. The four-mile long protrusion, possibly a mountain range dubbed Lonely Mountain remains unexplained. Other intriguing features include topographic characteristics.
Codenamed after deities of different cultures around the globe, this is a first step in establishing a knowledge base for Ceres. As for the Lonely Mountain, it is unclear how it appeared on the surface of the dwarf planet. So, the public is invited to offer their insight.
The false color map reveals compositional differences on Ceres’s surface. On closer look, you’ll see the Occator crater ridden with bright spots, the source of which is still unexplained as well.
The public invitation from NASA is still open. For any suggestions and insights scientists are at your disposal. And as Dawn is preparing to get closer to Ceres, more news are bound to come our way.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia
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