Even with a blurry image, it’s hard to ignore the large white spot on the dwarf planet Ceres. On January 13th, the NASA spacecraft Dawn captured the image that has sparked many rumors and ideas regarding the details on the mysterious white spot. The main focus of the NASA mission involved Dawn taking images of the planet. The images are (quite obviously) a bit blurry right now, but the scientists involved have plans to get higher-resolution pictures once the craft gets closer to Ceres.
“The Dawn team is very excited to examine the surface of Ceres in never-before-seen detail,” said Chris Russell, the principal investigator for the Dawn mission, in a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We look forward to the surprises this mysterious world may bring.”
The dwarf planet Ceres has been an interesting subject for research over the past few years. Even though it’s the largest object in the asteroid belt, it’s the smallest known dwarf planet in the solar system. A planet the size of Texas is still relatively small compared to many other objects within reasonable distance.
Mark Rayman, the mission director and chief engineer for the Dawn mission had this to say in an email to Space.com, “Yes, we can confirm that it is something on Ceres that reflects more sunlight, but what that is remains a mystery.” Rayman continues, “We do not know what the white spot is, but it’s certainly intriguing. In fact, it makes you want to send a spacecraft there to find out, and of course that is exactly what we are doing! So as Dawn brings Ceres into sharper focus, we will be able to see with exquisite detail what [the white spot] is.”
Some of the current rumors are stating that it’s a newly-formed crater that hasn’t been darkened by the sun’s rays yet. One of the reasons Ceres is getting so much attention is because it’s believed that 25% of its mass is water, which would mean it has more water than Earth.
Image Credit: NASA