Upon closer inspection, the planet looks like a giant golf ball with dimples all around its surface, possibly caused by asteroids that came crashing into the dwarf planet. These asteroids may have carried with them microbial beings which could be thriving in the planet.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which was launched in 2007 to study the protoplanets Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres has taken photos of the dwarf planet’s bright spots, areas which have left scientists both awed and perplexed.
Dawn captured the said photos on June 6, Saturday. On the snapshots are two main large bright spots which are surrounded by numerous white dots that are smaller in size, but bright just the same. These recent images were shot at a close distance of 2,700 miles above Ceres.
What confounds the NASA team is how these odd bright spots were formed on Ceres’ surface. Principal investigator Chris Russell from the University of California, Los Angeles opines that it is these bright spots that make Ceres distinct in the entire solar system. Russell admits that his team is still trying to crack the code as to the source of these lights. Scientists, on the other hand, hypothesize that these formations could have been formed by ice or salt reflecting light off the surface.
Recently, NASA surveyed the public, asking for their opinion on the origin of those bright spots on Ceres. In the study, participants were presented with the following options: volcanoes, geysers, rocks, ice or salt or other materials.
As of press time, 40 percent of the respondents from the survey answered that the bright spots on Ceres are made from other materials, while a good number (three out of ten) opted for ice. Only six percent of the respondents chose rocks.
Dawn will continue probing Ceres until June. Thereafter, it will begin its journey into the lower orbit of Ceres, approximately 900 miles over the surface. The journey is expected to be completed in early August 2015.