Scientists at NASA have asked the public about the presence of bright spots on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres and what could it be, being no closer to the answer despite the Dawn probe capturing the most detailed and clear pictures of the planet ever.
Launched in September 2007, the Dawn space probe took pictures of Ceres which show the bright spot from almost 29000 miles away. The probe is getting closer to being pulled into orbit around the dwarf planet.
The pictures show two clear bright spots on the surface of the planet, which is around 590 miles in diameter and made up of rock and ice.
Bright spots had been seen on the surface of the planet in the past, but only after Dawn probe took detailed images, it was realized by NASA that there were many bright spots closer to each other.
Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, said: “The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with out camera, but despire its size it is bright that anything else on Ceres.”
“This is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us.”
Chris Russell, the principal investigator for the Dawn mission, said: “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.”
Launching an online poll on their website, NASA has asked the public for ideas on what the spot could represent.
The theory of NASA is that the light is reflected hitting the surface of the planet, but what might be causing the reflection of this light is still unknown.
30% of the people who responded think of it as ice, but the winning choice is ‘other’ category, having 38% of votes.
Previously, Dawn had visited the massive asteroid Vesta from 2011 to 2012 and took many thousands of images, and many more measurements of the body.
It currently is examining Ceres, the dwarf planet which is one of the largest bodies in the asteroid belt.