Ceres' bright spots seen in striking new detail

September 9, 2015, JPL/NASA
This image, made using images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, shows Occator crater on Ceres, home to a collection of intriguing bright spots. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The brightest spots on the dwarf planet Ceres gleam with mystery in new views delivered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. These closest-yet views of Occator crater, with a resolution of 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel, give scientists a deeper perspective on these very unusual features.

The new up-close view of Occator from Dawn's current vantage point reveals better-defined shapes of the brightest, central spot and features on the . Because these spots are so much brighter than the rest of Ceres' surface, the Dawn team combined two different images into a single composite view—one properly exposed for the bright spots, and one for the surrounding surface.

Scientists also have produced animations that provide a virtual fly-around of the crater, including a colorful topographic map.

Dawn scientists note the rim of Occator crater is almost vertical in some places, where it rises steeply for 1 mile (nearly 2 kilometers).

Views from Dawn's current orbit, taken at an altitude of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers), have about three times better resolution than the images the spacecraft delivered from its previous orbit in June, and nearly 10 times better than in the spacecraft's first orbit at Ceres in April and May.

"Dawn has transformed what was so recently a few bright dots into a complex and beautiful, gleaming landscape," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission director based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Soon, the scientific analysis will reveal the geological and chemical nature of this mysterious and mesmerizing extraterrestrial scenery."

The spacecraft has already completed two 11-day cycles of mapping the surface of Ceres from its current altitude, and began the third on Sept. 9. Dawn will map all of Ceres six times over the next two months. Each cycle consists of 14 orbits. By imaging Ceres at a slightly different angle in each mapping cycle, Dawn scientists will be able to assemble stereo views and construct 3-D maps.

Dawn is the first mission to visit a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two distinct solar system targets. It orbited protoplanet Vesta for 14 months in 2011 and 2012, and arrived at Ceres on March 6, 2015.

Credit: NASA

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27 comments

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Jeweller
3 / 5 (7) Sep 09, 2015
It's Diamonds
Jeffhans1
1 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2015
Dome it over and measure the outflow. If it is something useful (what gases wouldn't be useful in space) compress it and start selling it.
Tuxford
1.8 / 5 (16) Sep 09, 2015
Finally, a bit a news. They needed time for image processing.

Because these spots are so much brighter than the rest of Ceres' surface, the Dawn team combined two different images into a single composite view—one properly exposed for the bright spots, and one for the surrounding surface.


In other words, the photos are doctored. Heavily filtered so we don't get the true impression of the relative brightness.

Dawn scientists note the rim of Occator crater is almost vertical in some places, where it rises steeply for 1 mile...


That is quite a bit higher than El Cap in Yosemite.
Mayday
3.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2015
It appears to not be a crater, but a sink hole. That would be amazing.
JustAnotherGuy
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 09, 2015
Wait a moment.. where are the "alien city" specialists? Seems I have to do it by my self..
Hmm, I see a park.. some highways.. lot of buildings.. is it an "alien drugstore" over there?

Sorry, but without the proper data and measurements from the 'spots' along with the images, this doesn't improve any current information. Just, more defined, light patches inside the crater. Data will do better than images...
Maybe this will become more "alien conspiracy" troll's food after all.
Mimath224
5 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2015
@JustAnotherGuy ok then I'll start it off. It's light coming from underground chasms where the aliens have large cities...it's a ventilation shaft...on second thoughts, it looks like sprinkled talcum powder.
There seems to be a very slight shading in the central bright spot perhaps a dome shape as though an impact has released material under pressure...perhaps solidified into slate like pieces reflecting light. Just a bit of speculation.
adam_russell_9615
5 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2015
Its full of...... stars.
bluehigh
3 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2015
Remnants of a very slow icy impactor. One of a few tiny ice satelites that drifted onto the surface. The remaining material is from the denser salty core of the impactor.

JustAnotherGuy
5 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2015
@Mimath224. Hey, thanks for the support. Let the.. huh... fantasy hypotheses fly high... who knows... (:/)

For speculation about impacts and possibility of released materials you should watch some of the latest images taken from this orbit. Unfortunatelly PO didn't include any this time. Lots of 'bright spots'. In some cases, "exposed material" seems appropiate.

It's not Ocator's way. Another crater, with cracks inside too. Different distribution of 'spots': http://www.jpl.na...ires.jpg

Some crater's "shiny" walls:
http://www.jpl.na...ires.jpg
http://www.jpl.na...ires.jpg

And this little one prefers "isolation" (lightly right-down). Pretty curious:
http://www.jpl.na...ires.jpg
docile
Sep 10, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
docile
Sep 10, 2015
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Osiris1
2 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2015
The 'second spot', the one on the right in all the fotos we have gotten before, has changed. It is almost as if the lights in the center of it have gone over to the first one, to the center of it. In its place is a stylized letter 'V' almost cursive with long regular curves. Other areas of this foto contain straight lines. Nature does not do many straight lines, ruler straight, or regular curves unbroken by irregularities very well. Certainly does not collect them all in one place. If this foto is 'fotoshopped' to remove evidence then one would reallllyyy like to see the original.
Shootist
not rated yet Sep 10, 2015
Dogs flew spaceships
Tuxford
1 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2015
It's Diamonds

Could the white material be the object of the mining operations?
Calico
5 / 5 (1) Sep 10, 2015
Its full of...... stars.

My God...
docile
Sep 10, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
docile
Sep 10, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
cgsperling
not rated yet Sep 10, 2015
It got smacked with a cosmic snowball. Otherwise known as a comet.
Jonseer
5 / 5 (1) Sep 10, 2015
It could be also the Ceres analogy of so-called http://en.es-stat...5305.jpg freshly exploded. The leading theory is that pingos are formed by gas expansion triggered by underground heat or seismic event.

How funny I just wrote that is what I thought on the twitter account for Dawn ;) it's either that or a caldera of some sort erupting water and gas instead of lava.
docile
Sep 11, 2015
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gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 11, 2015
Unfortunately, it will be some time before we can get another view.
rossim22
2.7 / 5 (6) Sep 12, 2015
The surface is white, i.e. uncovered with regolith - which means, whole this artifact must be rather fresh, or continuously renewed (example of cryvolcanism). But the absence of http://d1jqu7g1y7...adus.jpg and the presence of "snowball" and many tiny spots around crater speaks on behalf of impactor theory. This artifact looks the more interesting, the more close photos of it we get. But its natural origin is quite apparent (or the NASA photoshopers did a really good work).


If an impact event formed this crater, wouldn't we expect the entire crater to be white... not just the bullseye in the center and several remnants on the side? Also, how could the recent impact produce a flat floor and nearly vertical walls? This impactor problem is explained away on other bodies through time flattening the otherwise normal bowl-shaped crater... but that is invalid here.
docile
Sep 12, 2015
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Mimath224
not rated yet Sep 12, 2015
@JustAnotherGuy very interesting. ...9881 image look very local. Don't know whether it's just shadow but the lines appear very straight and on one side. Not what I would expect from a solid impact. Almost like a splash.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Sep 14, 2015
If an impact event formed this crater, wouldn't we expect the entire crater to be white


Let's say you have a pristine snowball comet that picks up debris over the aeons (getting dirty on the outside but remains relatively pristine on the inside) then you may well get an impact crater like this.

Alternatively this may simply be exposing what is under the dirty exterior of Ceres everywhere (i.e. the point where the impact crater is deepest happened to penetrate below this critical depth).

Or we may be seeing a chemical reaction took place at the point of the impact where the energy was highest which resulted in a white material.

There's plenty of sensible possibilities out there besides that should be looked at before we go to the "aliens did it" theory.

Also, how could the recent impact produce a flat floor and nearly vertical walls?

A loose snowball would produce exactly that.
docile
Sep 15, 2015
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markseguin
5 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2015
The mineral looking deposits are interesting, however, what is really intriguing is the large perfectly shaped capital "M" raised feature left of the main bright area, that shows in all photos including the topographical 3d rendering "from all sides" .....that's bizarre.
I'd like to hear some theories on that.

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