Mystery Spots on Darf Planet
Now scientists find MORE ‘alien’ flashes on Ceres: Closest-ever images of the dwarf planet show the mystery spots in more detail than ever before Discovery was made in the latest images of the dwarf planet sent back by the Dawn spacecraft on May 3 and 4 This is the best image of Ceres taken to date, and was captured from 8,400 miles (13,600km) from its surface Experts are still at a loss to explain the bright spots, with theories ranging from salt flats to giant ice volcanoes. Experts, however, are still at a loss to explain the composition and source of the bright spots, with theories ranging from salt flats to giant ice volcanoes. ‘Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,’ said Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission from the University of California, Los Angeles. Until Dawn gets closer, though, it’s unlikely the mystery will be resolved. ‘It’s too early to say what they are,’ Dr Marc Rayman, Dawn’s mission director and chief engineer, told MailOnline. ‘Some people have offered they might be ice, but I don’t consider that necessarily the most likely explanation.’ Dr Rayman says he favours the theory that they could be ‘salty deposits’, left over from perhaps saltwater’ on the surface. But one thing that can be ruled out is that they are their own sources of light. Dr Rayman is certain they are simply reflecting sunlight. ‘They’re mysterious but not bizarre,’ he said. Several theories are currently being touted for what these mysterious bright white spots are on Ceres. The Hubble Space Telescope has found more than 10 on the surface, but Ceres has found that the two most prominent – ‘spot 5’ – are in a crater about 57 miles (92km) wide. One theory is that they are salt flats that are reflecting sunlight, left on the surface by saltwater. Another theory is that they are regions of ice, again reflecting sunlight. Ceres is thought to have plenty of ice beneath its surface, which could be exposed when a asteroid or comet strikes the surface. The fact these bright spots are in a crater – where such an impact occurred – supports this theory. Another possibility is that they are cryovolcanoes – volcanoes that are shooting out water or ice. However, the lack of a raised area around the spots consistent with a volcano suggests this might not be correct. And they could even be water vapour ejecting from a liquid reservoir under the ground, although again current observations – namely a lack of additional material near the spots – suggests this is not the case.
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