NASA revealed new maps of the dwarf planet Ceres, which show an enormous mountain as well as mysterious bright spots on the planet’s surface.
The amazing images were taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres since March. The maps show the different elevation on Ceres’ surface, from tall mountains to very steep craters. Ceres is situated between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt, and it is the largest object there.
One of the things that the topographic maps show is the Occator crate which is 56 miles (90 kilometres) wide. The floor of the crater appears to be one of the brightest spots on the planet’s surface. The other thing that was spotted was the so called ‘Pyramid’ mountain which is approximately 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) tall.
The researchers made global topographic maps of Ceres. The International Astronomical Union recently approved some of the names that were given to different features on Ceres, such as craters or mountains.
According to NASA, all of the names have something in common, and that is agriculture. For example, the mission team named a mountain which is 12 miles (20 kilometres) wide, Ysolo Mons, which in Albania represent a festival related to eggplant harvesting.
From September 27 to October 2, scientists will discuss the new maps at the European Planetary Science Conference (EPSC) in Nantes, France.
“Ceres continues to amaze, yet puzzle us as we examine our multitude of images, spectra and now energetic particle bursts,” stated Chris Russell, Dawn principal investigator at the University of California in Los Angeles.
The Dawn probe is currently situated at a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometres) from Ceres, and it is expected to reach a 230 miles (375 kilometres) distance in December.
In 2007, NASA launched the Dawn mission – which was $466 – to observe Ceres and Vesta (minor-planet designation 4 Vesta). Vesta is about 326 miles (525 kilometres) wide, and Ceres has a diameter of approximately 590 miles (950 kilometres).
After orbiting Vesta form 2011 to 2011, the Dawn spacecraft was sent to a new destination, Ceres. The Dawn mission is the first of its kind, because no other spacecraft was sent to orbit dwarf planets until now. Dawn will end its mission in 2017.
Image Source: bbci