Salty regions could be behind bright spots on Dwarf planet Ceres: NASA Research

Salty regions could be behind bright spots on Dwarf planet Ceres: NASA Research

Ceres has been throwing mysteries on astronomers and the recently noticed bright spots on the dwarf planet were hot topic of discussion among space scientists. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has sent some close images of Ceres and NASA team working on the project has made a video with the images taken by Dawn mission. The bright spots on Ceres could be due to high salt concentration regions on the dwarf planet.

NASA team has also noticed signs of morning mist in certain craters on the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt. Earlier research had suggested that the bright spots could be due to water-ice or ice volcanoes. The hexahydrite, a salty substance that's of the same ilk as Epsom salt, is just the residue that remains after the exposed water-ice evaporates.

Ceres currently orbits the Sun in between Jupiter and Mars, but the presence of ammonia-rich clays hints that the 584-mile wide body might have formed in the outer solar system. This is because the ammonia ice that's found in the clay would have evaporated too quickly and probably wouldn't still be here had Ceres formed in the inner solar system.

The closest match for the middle of the brightest spot in 56-mile-wide Occator Crater — which harbors the most dramatic and most famous collection of Ceres bright spots — is a type of hydrated magnesium sulfate known as hexahydrite.

While the salt explanation does match what appears to be observed by Dawn, the data beamed back by the spacecraft isn't exactly the highest-resolution.

The research paper published in the journal Nature has provided hints about craters seen with haze during the morning. The bright spots on Ceres could be due to salty regions on Ceres, according to NASA team working on the project.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has also released a video showcasing the bright spots and morning mist on dwarf planet Ceres. The video has been created by combining the images taken by Dawn spacecraft. The video also shows Occator crater on Ceres. NASA team has noticed more than 130 bright regions on Ceres. Most of the bright regions can be associated with impact craters.

The study team led by Andreas Nathues at Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen, Germany said that the salt-rich regions could have formed as the water-ice sublimated on Ceres in the past. The mixture of ice and salt might have come up due to asteroid impact on the surface.

Earlier, astronomers had anticipated that the bright spots on Ceres could be due to highly reflective water-ice. As Dawn spacecraft hovered at a closer distance from dwarf planet Ceres, the spots appeared dimmer that predicted by astronomers.