Tags: ceres | bright spots | nasa

Ceres Bright Spots Suggest It's Not a Dead Planet, NASA Says


By    |   Thursday, 14 December 2017 10:17 AM

Ceres' bright spots could be part of "geological processes" happening on the dwarf planet, proving that it is not a "dead planet," NASA says.

The space agency's Dawn spacecraft arrived at Ceres, located in the solar system's asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, in March 2015 and since then researchers have found more than 300 bright areas on its surface, according to the latest from NASA.

The space agency said the bright spots contain the most reflective material on Ceres, which is found on crater floors. The most iconic example is in Occator Crater, which hosts two prominent bright areas.

"The mysterious bright spots on Ceres, which have captivated both the Dawn science team and the public, reveal evidence of Ceres' past subsurface ocean, and indicate that, far from being a dead world, Ceres is surprisingly active," said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator of the Dawn mission.

"Geological processes created these bright areas and may still be changing the face of Ceres today," said Raymond, who presented the latest study about the bright areas at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans on Tuesday.

Dawn is expected to continue is exploration of Ceres until the middle of 2018 when scientists believe it will run out of fuel, Space.com reported. During that time, Dawn is expected to get as close of 120 miles of the dwarf planet, giving researchers their best view yet of the bright spots and other features on Ceres.

"Previous research has shown that the bright material is made of salts, and we think subsurface fluid activity transported it to the surface to form some of the bright spots," said Nathan Stein, a doctoral researcher at Caltech in Pasadena, California, per NASA.

NASA said the bright material on Ceres has mixed with the dark material over millions of years, forming the bulk of Ceres' surface, and when Ceres experienced impacts a billion years ago, the dwarf planet's surface likely would have been peppered with thousands of bright areas.

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NASA says Ceres' bright spots could be part of "geological processes" happening on the dwarf planet, proving that it is not a "dead planet."
ceres, bright spots, nasa
Thursday, 14 December 2017 10:17 AM
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