NASA Unveils Spectacular Close-up Images Of Ceres' Crater And Mysterious Bright Spots

Posted: Mar 23 2016, 9:47pm CDT | by , Updated: Mar 24 2016, 9:49pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


NASA Unveils Spectacular Close-up Images of Ceres' Mysterious Bright Spots
The image shows neutrons on a portion of Ceres. Credit: NASA

Scientists have found evidence of water ice in the surface of Ceres.

Dwarf plants Ceres, located on the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, baffled scientists for over a year. Now they may be coming closer to finding out what is causing its mysterious bright spots to shine so bright.

NASA has recently unveiled new images from Dawn spacecraft’s closest flyby over Ceres' crater Occator where the brightest spots of dwarf planet are lying. The latest images were taken from 240 miles (385 kilometers) above Ceres and provide the closest ever look at dwarf planet and the mysterious features on its surface.  

“Before Dawn began its intensive observations of Ceres last year, Occator Crater looked to be one large bright area. Now, with the latest close views, we can see complex features that provide new mysteries to investigate,” said Ralf Jaumann, a scientist at German Aerospace Center in Berlin. “The intricate geometry of the crater interior suggests geologic activity in the recent past, but we will need to complete detailed geologic mapping of the crater in order to test hypotheses for its formation.” 

During this low altitude orbit, Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND) aboard NASA's Dawn spacecraft managed to map the elemental composition of Ceres’ topmost surface. The instrument had detected fewer neutrons near the poles of Ceres than at the equator which is an indication of increased levels of hydrogen at high altitudes. Hydrogen is the gas which is required to form water. In other words, it is pointing to the presence of water ice in the subsurface of Ceres.

“Our analysis will test a longstanding prediction that water ice can survive just beneath Ceres’ cold, high altitude surface for billions of years.” Lead for GRand Tom Prettyman said.

Scientists at Dawn have also detected signs of water in Oxo crater; a young, 6-mile wide crater located in the Northern Hemisphere of Ceres but researchers suggest that the surface does not have the same composition all over the dwarf planet.  They have found Ceres quite diverse in terms of surface material composition. 

Nevertheless, the latest close-up images will provide a new insight into the chemical makeup of Ceres.

“We’re existed to unveil these beautiful new images, especially Occator, which illustrates the complexity of the processes shaping Ceres’ surface,” said Carol Raymond, principal investigator for the Dawn mission.

“Now that we can see Ceres’ enigmatic bright spots, surface minerals and morphology in high resolution, we’re busy working to figure out what processes shaped this unique dwarf planet.”



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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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