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Is White Spot On Ceres Really Ice?

NASA‘s Dawn Spacecraft has been closing in on the dwarf planet Ceres, and beginning on January 13th it started sending back identifiable photos of the planet. Even though the probe is still really far away from the planet, it still brings us the highest resolution photos that we have seen to date of the planet. The quality of the photographs will only continue to improve as the it gets even closer to its orbit around Ceres. The resolution is nowhere near good enough to make any type of determination of what may be on the surface, but there was a bright white dot that left a lot of people asking questions on Monday.

Is White Spot On Ceres Really Ice?

Ceres White Dot

Photos of Ceres have shown a white dot that rotates with the planet. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft hopes to gather enough details to substantiate what might make up this mass. (Image from Wikipedia)

NASA made no initial attempt at making a public statement about the observed white dot, but amateur astronomers are wondering if it may be a patch of ice reflecting the Sun’s light. If it does end up being a patch of ice, it is highly unlikely that it would be ice made from water, since that substance has not been known to exist in significant quantities this far out in orbit from the Sun. It would most likely be a type of gas that has managed to solidify in the supposed cold of space. At an orbital distance like Ceres’ there is not a very dense distribution of radiation from the Sun, compared to what the Earth’s surface absorbs.

It could also turn out that the white dot ends up not even being visible in later photos, as it could be a type of photographic trickery in the low resolution. With the amount of detail that seems to compare to that of the classic 8-bit Nintendo system, the photos sure leave a lot to be desired.

There are still those who are hopeful that the planet, whose orbit lies within the asteroid belt in between Mars and Jupiter, houses water and ice. Only time will tell. Dawn will be permanently set up in an orbit around Ceres to allow scientists to get a continual glimpse from its point of view.

Is White Spot On Ceres Really Ice?

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About Steven Kenniff

Lives in Phoenix, AZ. Graduated from Arizona State University in 2005. Writes for American Live Wire, GM Roadster and Northstar Media