Those weird bright spots on Ceres? Scientists have found out something interesting about them.
As we recently reported, NASA has released an incredible 3D map that shows where billion-year-old ice is trapped on the surface of Ceres. But lost in the shuffle was a truly fascinating mystery on Ceres that may have finally been uncovered.
Remember those two weird bright spots on the surface of Ceres that baffled NASA scientists as the Dawn spacecraft approached? When Dawn finally arrived, scientists began making more educated guesses on what it was — most likely some sort of salt deposit. But as it turns out, the full truth is much more fascinating.
These incredible bright areas are apparently the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth, according to a NASA statement.
The spots are located in the strange Occator Crater, which is thought to be about 80 million years old, relatively young in cosmic terms. The crater is 57 miles wide with the central pit being 6 miles wide.
Scientists have found that sodium carbonate is the dominant material in the crater, which is a type of salt found in hydrothermal environments here on Earth, and the material likely came from within Ceres, not from the impacting asteroid.
This leads to a fascinating conclusion: temperatures inside Ceres are far warmer than anyone previously believed. And even more amazingly, it may indicate that liquid water may have existed beneath the surface of Ceres not too long ago — perhaps just millions of years ago.
“It’s amazing how much we have been able to learn about Ceres’ interior from Dawn’s observations of chemical and geophysical properties. We expect more such discoveries as we mine this treasure trove of data,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.