Rising to a height of approximately four miles, the shining Space mountain promises is especially fascinating to scientists.
Rising to a height of approximately four miles, the prominent precipice, sporting bright streaks on its steep slopes, is especially fascinating to scientists. As a point of comparison, Mount Everest is approximately 5.5 miles high.
“This mountain is among the tallest features we’ve seen on Ceres to date,” said Dawn science team member Paul Schenk, a geologist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston. “It’s unusual that it’s not associated with a crater. Why is it sitting in the middle of nowhere? We don’t know yet, but we may find out with closer observations.”
Located between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres is the largest, most massive object in the main asteroid belt, with an average diameter of about 584 miles – about the same width as Texas at its most distant points (660 miles).
Scientists have also gathered new visual data about the famous Occator (oh-KAH-tor) crater, home to Ceres’ brightest spots.
Despite speculation that surface ice is causing these bright spots, in examining the way Occator’s bright spots reflect light at different wavelengths, the Dawn science team has not found evidence that is consistent with ice.
“We are now comparing the spots with the reflective properties of salt, but we are still puzzled by their source,” said Chris Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We look forward to new, higher-resolution data from the mission’s next orbital phase.”
Dawn will resume its observations of Ceres in mid-August from an altitude of 900 miles (less than 1,500 kilometers), or three times closer to Ceres than its previous orbit.
On March 6, 2015, Dawn made history as the first mission to reach a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two distinct extraterrestrial targets. It conducted extensive observations of Vesta in 2011-2012.