Washington – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft sent stunning new images of asteroid Ceres, giving hint about the geological processes of Ceres’s birth. It sent images of two bright patches on the asteroid.
It is believed that these spots reflecting sunlight in an efficient manner, should be hinting towards the presence of external ice. However, the fact that ice is not stable on an airless body makes this point non plausible. Another explanation could be that salts, which remained after the external ice vaporized, could be the reason.
The asteroid orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter and has been controversially assigned the status of a dwarf planet. It is reported that the Dawn spacecraft had arrived on the dwarf planet few weeks ago. Since its arrival on Ceres’s orbit, Dawn has been circling slowly across the dark side of Ceres (the side that faces away from the sun).
Now, Dawn is expected to slowly creep into the brighter side of Ceres and send much detailed images of the planet. More intriguing information about Ceres are expected in the days to come.
The dwarf planet measures nearly 1,000 km across its own equator. Scientists believe that this number is big enough for it to have been pulled into a spherical shape, by the virtue of its own gravity. It is expected that Ceres has a rocky interior but roughly, a quarter of its outer portion could comprise of ice.
However, it isn’t known if its rocky interior of ice extends all the way down to its core. It could also have lower layers of ice, melted to produce an internal ocean, similar to what scientists have found on satellites of Jupiter (Europa) and Saturn (Enceladus).
These images were taken a week ago by the probe. It had been 22,000 km away from Ceres’s surface. The science team of the US Space Agency Mission has not yet come up with a name for the location. It is still being called as ‘the region’ or spot.