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NASA Dawn Spacecraft Discovers Weird Bright Spots on Dwarf Planet Ceres, Continues Observation on Asteroid Belt

May 18, 2017 04:45 AM EDT
Ceres Rotation and Occator Crater
NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted bright spots on the surface of Ceres. Ceres is the largest known object in the asteroid belt believed to be capable of holding microbial life.
(Photo : NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/YouTube Screenshot)

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been continuously performing its mission and is still observing the dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres is found in the asteroid belt in between Jupiter and Mars.

NASA released an animation video of dwarf planet Ceres showing some astonishing details and weird spots on its surface. The new data can greatly help scientists and astronomers understand how dwarf planets work.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft captured the image on April 29. The spacecraft is located at about 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers) away from Ceres in between the Sun and the dwarf planet. The strategic positioning gave Dawn a perfect vantage point to film Ceres and its weird and mysterious spots.

"This increase in brightness, or 'surge,' relates the size of the grains of material on the surface, as well as the porosity of those materials," a NASA official said.

The weird mysterious bright spot on the surface of Ceres is called the Occator Crater. The craters are believed to be evidence of formerly active volcanic activity on the dwarf planet. To help astronomers view the images, NASA created a video made up of the combined images of Ceres and its mysterious bright spots.

"The bright spots of Occator stand out particularly well on an otherwise relatively bland surface," NASA said.

Although there is no concrete explanation yet as to why there are weird bright spots on the surface of Ceres, astronomers believe that they are highly influenced by the size and porousness of the materials on the dwarf planet's surface. Data from ground-based telescopes predict that Ceres' weird and mysterious spots would appear brighter during the opposition, according to a report.

The "surge" in brightness can be due to an increase of configuration in the grain of materials on its surface. Ceres is significant because it is the largest known object in the Asteroid belt. Astronomers believe that Ceres can potentially hold water and possibly alien life or microbes.

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