NASA released this week the closest view to date of the mystery bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken by Dawn spacecraft which is now orbiting the space body at a close distance and it is expected to be at an even closer distance (233 miles) by early December.
The pair of the bright spots intrigued scientists ever since they were detected early this year, but the long distance photos were taken as Dawn was getting nearer to the tiny planet didn’t allow NASA scientists to have a clue about the origins of the phenomenon.
Several theories have been circulating about the bright blobs. Some scientists believed that they may be created by alien geysers or volcanoes, while other researchers thought that they may be surfaces with high reflectivity such as ice or salt deposits.
The latter theory still stands and may be confirmed by NASA really soon, when Dawn is close enough to perform other scientific measurements.
The two bright spots are located in a 57-mile-wide crater called after the Roman god of harrow Occator who was the assistant of the Roman goddess of agriculture Ceres. Scientists believe that there may be more of these spots on Ceres, but the ones spotted inside Occator are hard to miss and are by far the brightest. Scientists said that they are 40 percent brighter than the rest of the dwarf planet’s surface.
The recent imagery released by the space agency was formed by overlapping two separate photos of the crater – one of them had a high-resolution exposure of the spots while the other focused on the dark ground around them at regular exposure.
Both images were snapped from a 915 mile-distance of the 2-mile-deep alien crater, making them the sharpest images to date of the mystery whit spots. Each of the photos has now a 450 feet/pixel (140 meters/pixel) resolution, NASA investigators noted.
Dawn will start its final approach to the dwarf planet next month and is expected to enter the closest orbit in December. The probe entered Ceres’ orbit for the first time on March 6.
“Dawn has transformed what was so recently a few bright dots into a complex and beautiful, gleaming landscape,”
recently stated Marc Rayman, the mission’s chief engineer.
Rayman also said that the team expects the probe to perform a more detailed scientific analysis that could help mission investigators better understand the chemical and geological makeup of the alien formations.
Image Source: Wikipedia