Starts With A Bang

Ceres, the solar system’s closest dwarf planet, has its mysteries solved by NASA (Synopsis)

This global map shows the surface of Ceres in enhanced color, encompassing infrared wavelengths beyond human visual range. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

“Although impact processes dominate the surface geology on Ceres, we have identified specific color variations on the surface indicating material alterations that are due to a complex interaction of the impact process and the subsurface composition.” -Ralf Jaumann, Dawn scientist

NASA’s Dawn mission has just revealed a huge suite of data about Ceres, our Solar System’s closest dwarf planet. No longer merely taking pictures, at its orbital altitude of just 240 miles (385 km), it’s now gathering information from many instruments, measuring the chemical composition and neutron/gamma ray fluxes from the surface.

This map shows a portion of the northern hemisphere of Ceres with neutron counting data acquired by the gamma ray and neutron detector (GRaND) instrument aboard NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/ASI/INAF.

Three big surprises have emerged, including a new theory for the salt deposits in Occator crater, the possible existence of sub-surface icecaps at the poles, and a new set of white spots in Oxo crater, which are water-ice after all!

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA, of Oxo crater.

Go get the full story over on Forbes!