Thursday, 26 February 2015
Bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres puzzle scientists
This image was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft of dwarf planet Ceres on Feb. 19 from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). It shows that the brightest spot on Ceres has a dimmer companion, which apparently lies in the same basin.
Image by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
According to Nasa, the latest images from its Dawn probe, taken about 46,000 kilometres from Ceres, reveal a new bright spot.
The spot lies close to another area that held a bright spot in previous images.
"Ceres' bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin. This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations," said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres. This is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us," said Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen, Germany.
Dawn is scheduled to enter Ceres' orbit on 6 March, which will give researchers a closer look at the dwarf planet and its geological history.
Some researchers have speculated that given the abundance of water on the planet, it could possible hold life.
"Ceres is actually the largest water reservoir in the inner solar system other than the Earth," Jian-Yang Li, of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona told Space.com last year.
It is unclear how much of this is liquid. While steam has been noted from the dwarf planet, this appears to only be as it nears to sun.
"When Ceres is in the colder part of its orbit, no water escapes," Nasa reported.
Source : http://www.timeslive.co.za/