Categories: Dawn Spacecraft

Mysterious Bright Spots On Ceres Likely Made Of Salt: VIDEO

Researchers believe that they have finally solved the riddle of the mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres. Using data sent back to Earth from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft earlier this year, scientists determined that the bright material is a type of salt.

According to a recent study published in the journal Nature, the bright material is consistent with a type of magnesium sulfate called hexahydrite. A different type of magnesium sulfate on Earth is known to humans as Epsom salt.

Using images from Dawn’s framing camera, researchers suggest that these salt-rich areas were left behind when water-ice sublimated in the past. Impacts from asteroids would have unearthed the mixture of ice and salt, they say.

“The global nature of Ceres’ bright spots suggests that this world has a subsurface layer that contains briny water-ice,” said lead study author, Andreas Nathues at Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen, Germany.


A representation of Ceres’ Occator Crater in false colors shows differences in the surface composition. Red corresponds to a wavelength range around 0.97 micrometers (near infrared), green to a wavelength range around 0.75 micrometers (red, visible light) and blue to a wavelength range of around 0.44 micrometers (blue, visible light). Occator measures about 60 miles (90 kilometers) wide.

Scientists use false color to examine differences in surface materials. The color blue on Ceres is generally associated with bright material, found in more than 130 locations, and seems to be consistent with salts, such as sulfates. It is likely that silicate materials are also present.

The images were obtained by the framing camera on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft from a distance of about 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers).

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