Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dawn Mission Nears Ceres Orbit Maneuvers

The Dwarf Planet Ceres - by NASA Dawn Mission
The bright spots shining in a crater near the middle of the dwarf planet Ceres can be seen rotating from left to right.

The stills heretofore only showed them on the sunlit side, generally straight on.

Thus, there was speculation early on that they could be reflections of sunlight off ice at the bottom of the crater.

This GIF shows that the spots continue to shine, or reflect, even after the crater rotates into the dark side of Ceres (as you can see, I also did a screen capture, below right, and put a red line pointing toward the spot when it enters the dark).

Thus, the light generation seems to not be a reflection, but rather light generated
Click photo to enlarge
from two sources inside the crater.

However, some of the other bright spots don't seem to glow in the dark, so we will have to wait a few days for Dawn to enter orbit (Friday).

Then Dawn can take a look at the dark side of Ceres to see if any of them glow all the way across the dark side, or instead fade out.

If they fade out slowly the source could be sunlight generated phosphorescence that fades out while on the dark side, to be regenerated on the sun facing side --but if they immediately go out and stay out on the dark side, they could be only some type of reflection from a shiny surface at the floor of the crater (such as a flat surface of frozen ice or other reflective material).

But if they glow or shine all the way across the dark side, then the light is generated by a source in the crater rather than being merely a reflection of sunlight.

Another possibility  is that there are two very high spots, peaks, in the center of that crater (which are higher than the low crater rim).

The  photo below shows close-ups of the subject crater.

The photo on the left side is the one taken in regular light.

The other photo on the right side, is inverted (white has been changed to black, black into white, and greys into darker or lighter greys accordingly).

The next post in this series is here.

Click photo to enlarge


  1. Interesting! Maybe it's an interstellar club or something, where non-humans go to have fun and trade stories. "Hey, d'ja hear the idiot life form on Earth is consuming it's host planet, changing it's chemistry and disrupting the ability of the place to sustain any life?" "Yeah, those are some "sapient sapient" humans - bwah-haaaah-haaaaah!"

    Certainly there's intelligent life on this planet - that's why we're in this predicament!