NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has captured several images of the dwarf planet Ceres which show bright mysterious spots on the surface of the planet.
These spots indicate that the planet could not be dead as thought at first. The surface of the planet is otherwise dark.
Carol Raymond, deputy principle investigator of the Dawn mission, said, “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.”
“Geological processes created these bright areas and may still be changing the face of Ceres today,” Raymond said.
The latest images were presented by the researchers on Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans.
The scientists have located more than 300 bright areas on the surface of the planet since their mission started in March 2015, when they arrived in orbit at Ceres.
Ceres is the largest object between Mars and Jupiter’s asteroid belt.
The planet’s feature had been divided into four different categories in the journal Icarus.
The first group of bright spots on the surface of Ceres contain the most reflective material found on crater floors. The Occator Crater is the prominent one with two bright areas.
All the bright material in the Occator Crater is made of salt-rich material which was once likely mixed with water.
In the second category, the bright material is found on the rims of the craters, while in the third category, the bright material can be found in the material was ejected when craters were formed, said the study.
The Dawn is on its final mission in which it will descend the lower altitudes, scientists indicate on learning more about the bright spots and the bright material on the Occator Crater.