On a successful mission, Spacecraft Dawn from NASA has transmitted new images of the dwarf planet Ceres. The images that were sent across on January 13 by Dawn were released by NASA on January 19. The photos showed a strange glowing white mysterious spot on the surface of Ceres that has stirred up huge amount of curiosity amongst space enthusiasts.
As there have been no explanations on the subject by NASA till now, speculations have gone higher. Marc Rayman, mission director and chief engineer for this project stated that the presence of a bright white spot on Ceres is confirmed, but they are yet to figure out what it could be. Scientists suggest a possible explanation would be the existence of an ice pool at the bottom of the crater that reflects more light.
The new images showed dark and light contrasting features indicating the presence of craters on the surface of Ceres but they need to be resolved first before coming to the exact conclusions. In the coming weeks, Dawn will be sending sharper and clearer images of Ceres with better focus and that would help scientists to solve the mystery of the white glowing spot, suggested Rayman.
Ceres was discovered in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, an Italian priest. It was named after Roman Goddess of agriculture and fertility. Ceres, a dwarf planet has an average diameter of 590 miles (950 kilometers). It is also expected to contain an impressive amount of ice. Ceres is known to be the largest body in the asteroid belt, peacefully lies between Mars and Jupiter.
Dawn, a spacecraft of $466 million worth, will start orbiting around Ceres on March 6, as a part of 16 month’s study. An intriguing feature of Dawn suggests it has ion engines. They have a diameter of about one foot. To make these engines work, bombardment of xenon atoms with electrons gives rise to ions. The back sides of the engines are made up of metal grids. When these grids are charged to around 1,000 volts, they throw out ions at a speed of 90,000 miles per hour. The use of such engine has made Dawn much more efficient than other traditional spacecrafts.
Ceres, unlike Vesta, the second largest body in the asteroid, also explored by Dawn during 2011- 2012, is expected to have more resemblance with the outermost planets. Scientists feel Ceres should contain more fresh water than Earth’s.
Lot of details is likely to be revealed about Ceres in the coming days.