For a brief period last spring—before Pluto sucked up all the “dwarf planet” mojo—Ceres was the most important minor planetary body in the solar system (as far as Earth was concerned). In March, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft successfully entered into orbit around the 587-mile diet planet, providing scientists with an unparalleled up-close view of the largest object in the main Asteroid Belt.
While most of Ceres’s glamour shots were full of gray rocky whatever, it also boasted an unexpected series of intriguing “bright spots.” The nature of these mysterious glowing spots, which lie in the so-called “Occator crater,” are still not fully understood, however a new exploratory survey from Dawn has provided some of the clearest images yet.
The above image, which boasts a resolution of 450 feet per pixel, is actually a composite of two images taken from roughly 915 miles above the Ceresian surface—one fixated on the spots, and the other on the surrounding surface. The images come courtesy of a recent round of mapping cycles, which provided detailed topographical insights, such as the fact that the surrounding crater rises—nearly vertically at some points—to nearly a mile tall.
Check out this animation based on data collected in the recent fly-bys:
“Dawn has transformed what was so recently a few bright dots into a complex and beautiful, gleaming landscape,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, in a NASA blog post. “Soon, the scientific analysis will reveal the geological and chemical nature of this mysterious and mesmerizing extraterrestrial scenery.”
While the image does not shed any particular light into the glowing spots’s composition, those answers should be coming in the very near future. Stay tuned.
[ Source :- Pcmag ]