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Last year, NASA's Dawn spacecraft went into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. Immediately, researchers were mesmerized by a number of bright spots peppering the planet's charcoal-gray surface. What were they? No one knew, but they hoped that close-up images taken during a low orbit in Feb. 2016 might crack the mystery. Yesterday, those images were released.
"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 multiple hypotheses for its formation," says Ralf Jaumann of the German Aerospace Center. He is a member of the Dawn science team that released the new images at the 47th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 22nd.
One idea gaining favor is that the bright area might be a crust of salt marking the spot where a briny underground ocean briefly broke through to the surface. If so, Ceres might not be as dry as it looks. Indeed, the density of Ceres suggests that 1/3rd of its mass is H2O, and some researchers think Ceres contains more freshwater than Earth itself.
The bright spots of Occator Crater are shown in enhanced color in this view from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Such views can be used to highlight subtle color differences on Ceres' surface.
originally posted by: Phage
a reply to: wildespace
Odd looking terrain.
Of course, it is another planet(oid). So I guess it would depend on your point of view.
Evidently the impact that created Occator Crater punched through into the subsurface ocean of Ceres, and created a weak spot that has henceforth served as a conduit for cryovolcanic outflows.
The main bright spot is inside of what appears to be a volcanic caldera, a depressed area with concentric cracks around (and inside) its perimeter, produced through the collapse of the roof of a "magma" chamber after its contents were extruded. And in the center of the caldera we have fresh dome-building, where slush is apparently pushing up (quite possibly in preparation for another significant eruption in the future), and this has caused radial cracks in the center (on the slopes of the dome) where the crust has been stretched.
I don't think it's ice either - Ceres has no insulating atmosphere, the Sun would have evaporated the ice.
Probably a giant boulder of some different material.
originally posted by: Tardacus
so that`s "suppose" to be the same spot?
The same spot that glowed like a billion watt halogen light from a gazillion miles away but up close it doesn`t even reflect enough light to cause lens flare?