Saturday, 24 January 2015
Ceres: NASA Finds Mysterious White Spot On Dwarf Planet
Ceres- A Dwarf Planet located at Asteroid belt (Click Image to Download)
NASA scientists have been stymied by the discovery of a large, bright white spot on the dwarf planet Ceres, which has been revealed in images from the Dawn spacecraft, set to soon arrive at the unusual celestial object.
The white spot appeared in a series of photographs of Ceres taken on January 13, according to Space.com. Though the images were released on January 19, just what has caused the anomaly on the dwarf planet, which is located between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt, remains undetermined, according to mission director and chief engineer Marc Rayman.
“Yes, we can confirm that it is something on Ceres that reflects more sunlight, but what that is remains a mystery,” he said.
The Dawn spacecraft marks the first mission to Ceres, and is set to arrive at the dwarf planet in March of this year. The spacecraft has traveled 3.1 billion miles over the last seven years, according to Popular Science, pushed toward the asteroid belt at just 450 mph by a set of ion thrusters.
Scientists know precious little about Ceres, which has a diameter of 590 miles and a surface area four times larger than the state of Texas. Astronomers have previously observed water vapor plumes erupting off Ceres, thought to be the product of ice geysers referred to as “cryovolcanos.” Though much of its mass is believed to be composed of water, some speculate that the Dawn mission will determine that the dwarf planet possesses a rocky, barren surface.
Although it is unclear what Dawn will find when it reaches the dwarf planet, the spacecraft already has a mystery to solve in the form of Ceres’ unusual white spot.