Today’s blog was to be the conclusion of our research on the creation of a classic monster, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to report the news of alien lights. Thank you GB for the news tip.
The Short Of It
Images sent back from NASA’s Dawn space probe reveal two bright spots on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres. These lights are unexpected and a mystery say investigators of the mission.
The Long Of It
When first observed, investigators believed the light spot to be singular. However, as Dawn drew closer to the planet, newer images revealed that the one bright spot had a companion.
On the NASA website, Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of California in Los Angeles states: “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.”
On February 25, 2015, Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team said:“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.” The framing camera team is located at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany.
Ceres was first spotted in 1801 by Sicilian astronomer Father Guiseppe Piazzi. At first it was classified as a planet, then moved to asteroid, and then—because of its planet-like nature—labeled a dwarf planet, along with Pluto and Eris, in 2006
(ProbeNote: The planet was named after the Roman goddess of agriculture and harvest. Names for craters on Ceres will be taken from other world myths of the gods and goddesses of agriculture and vegetation. Other features discovered on Ceres will be named after agricultural festivals.)
Thus far in Dawn’s decade-long mission, she has explored Vesta, a giant asteroid, for 14 months in 2011 and 2012. Dawn uses an ion propulsion system as opposed to chemical propulsion. Her three ion engines make her more efficient.
Her story is never-ending as she will remain in orbit—a perpetual satellite around Ceres—at the end of her mission.
Vesta and Ceres both orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter, in the main asteroid belt, but each features significant differences. It is because of these differences that Ceres and Vesta were chosen for Dawn’s mission.
- is the most massive object in the asteroid belt
- its surface covers about 38% of the area of the continental US
- has a primitive surface containing water-bearing minerals
- is 25% water by mass
- may possess a weak atmosphere
- appears to have similarities to those of the large icy moons of the outer solar system
- has an average diameter is 326 miles (525 kilometers)
- is the second most massive body in the belt
- was formed earlier than Ceres
- is a very dry body unlike Ceres
- surface shows signs of resurfacing
- resembles the rocky bodies of the inner solar system, including Earth
“Both Vesta and Ceres were on their way to becoming planets, but their development was interrupted by the gravity of Jupiter,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). “These two bodies are like fossils from the dawn of the solar system, and they shed light on its origins.”
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