Ceres is getting its close up, as NASA unveils the most detailed photographs that have ever been taken of the dwarf planet since missions to uncover more detail about it began. The robotic probe called Dawn is the spacecraft responsible for taking the incredible pictures, which revealed a ton of detail from Ceres, but leave many wondering about what more will be found as the probe continues to get closer. In the latest pictures, the probe is just 8,400 miles away from the surface of Ceres, which is unprecedented, but also visually spectacular since it gives way to very interesting pictures of the craters on the surface, and what the surface looks like as a whole, with greater detail.
Ceres is what scientists call the largest object in an asteroid belt that sits between Mars and Jupiter. This is how it received its classification, and this is how Ceres got to be where it is today. The only question has been to this point, how can we get more detailed pictures of the planet, and possibly begin doing some mapping of the surface for testing?
Astronomers are trying to answer that question by creating a 3D version of the planet as the mapping and pictures continue to be taken by the probe Dawn. This though, isn’t the only dwarf planet that will be getting looked at up close and personal. Another dwarf planet called, Vesta is on the list of objects that Dawn will be looking at as it continues throughout this mission.
Right now, scientists and astronomers are equally confused about the bright lights that are sitting on the surface of the dwarf planet. That has been one thing that astronomers have been trying to determine since the early photos, which were significantly less detailed, made it out through Dawn. The new photos only show those lights with greater detail. It’s as if they are coming directly from the planet itself, rather than being a reflection of some sort. However, scientists at this point are nearly entirely certain about the lights origin in terms of knowing that it has nothing to do with anything happening on the planet.
Some theories have suggested a reflection from ice on the surface of Ceres, or even some other reflective options – but at the end of the day – it comes down to simply not being entirely sure. Now though, with greater image quality, and a greater number of photos to work from – scientists can finally start to work to uncover the mystery around the lights that are alien to Ceres.