Stunning images are taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft and provide more insight into the geological features of the dwarf planet.
NASA has released stunning close up images of a mysterious bright crater located on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres.
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The images were taken at the distance of 240 miles from Ceres when Dawn spacecraft made its closest approach to the celestial body and reveal the features of its crater Haulani in a remarkably detailed manner.
The images can provide more insight into dwarf planet’s geology and may help understand what its surface is made of.
Haulani crater has a diameter of 21 miles and it contains one of the bright spots observed during NASA’s Dawn mission. The crater features a central ridge and streaks of smooth, bright material on its walls. Ejected bluish material has formed rays on the surrounding area and it is an indication that crater is relatively young. The enhanced false color images also show evidence of landslides from its crater’s rim.
“Haulani perfectly displays the properties we would expect from a fresh impact into the surface of Ceres. The crater floor is largely free of impacts and it contrasts sharply in color from older parts of the surface.” NASA blog says.
The stand out characteristic of the crater is its polygonal nature, meaning its shape appears to be made of straight lines, which is different from craters found on Earth and other planets. Most of the craters on other celestial bodies are nearly circular in shape. Researchers believe that straight lines may be created due to complex structure and stress patterns beneath the surface.
A 6-mile wide crater Oxo is also shown in the images. Crater Oxo is the second brightest feature on Ceres behind Crater Occator and looks unique because of a very large slump in its rim. The little Oxo can contribute in understanding the upper crust of Ceres.
Ceres is the largest object lying between Jupiter and Mars and has been a longstanding mystery for scientists because of its mysterious bright spots.
To study the dwarf planet, NASA launched Dawn space probe in 2007. During its nearly decade long mission, Dawn studied the features of Ceres and provided clues on what is lying on its surface. The spacecraft reached its final orbit, which is just 240 miles from Ceres, in December last year and is expected to continue studying Ceres through June 2016.