NASA’s space probe Dawn continues her journey to explore the dwarf planet Ceres. As Dawn orbits even closer, scientists had hoped to have some definitive answers to the question: What are those strange lights reflecting from the planet’s surface?
The Short of It
The first images captured by Dawn of the lights were taken from a distance of 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) and sent back to NASA on February 19, 2015.
- On March 6, 2015, Dawn entered orbit around Ceres.
- On May 16, 2015, Dawn captured another series of images from a distance 4, 500 miles (7,200 kilometers)—much closer than the first images. The images showcase a group of the brightest spots on Ceres.
The Long of It
The bright spots continue to mystify scientists, NASA said. Scientists hoped that as they received closer and clearer views of the planet the true nature of the lights would be revealed, but even the newer, more intimate images leave scientists scratching their heads.
NASA offers a poll on their web page. Visitors can cast their vote as to what they think is causing the strange lights.
- Salt Deposite
I voted for other.
I did a similar survey on google+ and polled three separate communities. The majority of voters went with ice. Click here to read entire results.
According to NASA, it seems the scientist are leaning toward ice as well. “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,” Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission from the University of California, Los Angeles, said recently.
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 mission is to identify the characteristics of our early solar system and the processes that dominated its formation. She is the first space probe to orbit two extraterrestrial bodies, the first to visit Ceres and Vesta, and the first to study a dwarf planet.
Dawn’s story is never-ending. She will remain in orbit—a perpetual satellite around Ceres—at the end of her mission. To read more on Vesta and Ceres click here.
My vote is on an alien signal and if this proves to be true, I have two questions.
- Will we be told the truth?
- Should we make contact?
The Probe is a blog devoted to the exploration of the unexplainable. New posts are featured every week on Mondays. (But sometimes I release early, like on Sundays, if I have a writing deadline, or if I’m going camping, or if I have something exciting I just can’t wait to tell you. Sign up to get my new blog posts delivered to your email. No spam. Promise.)
blog post #107