Ceres is the smallest dwarf planet in our Solar System and it is also the closes dwarf planet to orbit the Sun. It is actually a part of the Asteroid Belt, which is located beyond Mars.
Modern observations about Ceres, have revealed that the dwarf planet actually has an abundance of water, minerals and ice, thus making it one of the most suitable options to sustain human life.
To further explore Ceres (and the possibility of human colonization), NASA has directed one of its spacecrafts towards it. In 2012, spacecraft Dawn began making its way to Ceres from the proto-planet Vesta.
Dawn had a long way to travel to get from Vesta to Ceres, given the fact that the estimate distance between the two is larger than the distance between Earth and the Sun.
Ceres has always been regarded as an intriguing planet because Hubble telescope photographed a bright light coming from the planet`s surface. Researchers also discovered that Ceres loses 6 Kg from its mass through steam and vapors.
The bright light coming from Ceres was also reported and photographed by Dawn and thanks to its greater proximity than Hubble, it was revealed that there are actually two bright spots on Dawn`s surface.
But what sparked controversy was the discovery of the bright light coming from Ceres. The origin of those spots still remains undiscovered and those two spots can only be noticed in one region of Ceres. Also, they seem to remain immobile. Scientists are still debating what type of material can reflect so much light and their best guess is that ice is the one that is causing those bright spots.
In a massive brainstorming session, NASA scientists asked people what they suspect might be going on Ceres`s surface and, for the past few days, many new ideas were revealed. Volcanoes, salt deposits or geysers are some of the plausible explanations that people came up with.
Dawn will be orbiting Ceres at 2,700 miles high starting June 6 and seeing that the pictures revealing the two bright spots were taken from a distance of 4,500 miles, hopefully new data will arrive next month.
If the issue of the bright spots is not clarified by June 30th, then more information will be revealed in July, when spacecraft Dawn will start orbiting Ceres at even lower altitudes.
Spacecraft Dawn has been launched in 2007 and has been directed towards the Asteroid Belt, with a clear objective: To study the two largest objects found in the belt: Vesta and Ceres. It has orbited Vesta for 14 months and has gathered valuable information regarding the geology and structure of the proto-planet and now it is taking care of the second part of its mission.
Image Source: thewestsidestory