Intriguing bright spots in a crater on the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, are coming into sharper focus as NASA's Dawn spacecraft studies the world from a 915-mile-high mapping orbit. It will descend to an altitude of just 230 miles or so later this year.
The bright spots were first detected by Dawn's instruments during its approach to Ceres, prompting widespread speculation about possible ice or salt deposits, volcanic eruptions of some sort, icy geysers or impacts that either deposited material of exposed a layer of younger, brighter material below the surface. The latest images from Dawn reveal surface features as small as 450 feet across. The two bright spots are now resolved into one very bright area near the center of a crater known as Occator with about eight smaller concentrations to one side surrounding an area where the deposits appear more spread out.
Researchers with the Dawn project have not yet weighed in on what the bright material might be or how it got there.
"Although our data are now of higher resolution, we're still missing key pieces of information that we really need to know the whole picture," Carol Raymond, the Dawn deputy principal investigator, told CBS News.
"Essentially, the important information we're missing is the detailed chemistry of these deposits. We won't know that until we complete the spectral mapping and have fully analyzed those data. Then, as we get much closer to the surface, we'll be able to better resolve at the level of these individual deposits and assess whether these bright materials are all the same or are there different flavors of the constituents?"
More: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bright-spot ... er-detail/
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