Dwarf planet Ceres has TEN bright spots, astroboffins say

Worldlet is no dusty rock thanks to 'active' past producing varied geology


Dwarf planet Ceres has ten bright spots, not just the two that the Dawn spacecraft saw as it approached the worldlet in February.

The two bright patches sparked all manner of speculation about their origins. Some suggested they could be volcanoes or a frozen lake reflecting the Sun. As news, and new images, of the bright spots dried up some even suggested NASA was withholding information about their origin because The News Was So Freaking Big It Needed To Be Handled Carefully While Wearing Radiation-Deflecting Headware. If you see what we mean.

NASA's now revealed a little more information about what it thinks is going on at Ceres, although it says the new conjectures are preliminary because Dawn gets down to serious business on April 23rd. It's new thinking therefore relies on long-range pics from Dawn and the Hubble Space Telescope, which NASA reckons together show that Ceres “was once an active body” with a very varied surface. An informed guesstimate suggests the worldlet is about a quarter ice.

Hubble image analysis suggests Ceres is home to about ten bright spots but figuring out what makes them shine is tough because some of those observed are warmer than others. Which brings us back to Ceres' “active” history, because mission boffins say early images suggest the body has different materials in different places on its surface. Just like the Solar System's solid planets, which is making for some re-appraisal of “how did we get here” theories. ®

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