Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is home to some strange surface markings. NASA's Dawn spacecraft investigates.
As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft creeps closer to the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, astronomers are getting impatient to gain a clearer view of the surface. According to a report from CNET, NASA posted a video on Thursday that reveals strange bright streaks jutting down the slope of an enormous pyramid-shaped mountain.
The mountain is massive – it towers higher than Alaska’s Mount McKinley at an elevation of almost 20,000 feet. According to Marc Rayman, the director of the Dawn Mission at NASA, astronomers are clueless as to what the glowing streaks running down the mountain could be. They are also intrigued by two large similar glowing dots in the middle of a 60-mile-wide crater.
As Dawn gains ground on the dwarf planet Ceres, researchers will get a closer view of the strange glowing on the surface. NASA strung together Dawn’s most recent still images of the surface on Ceres in a video uploaded to Youtube, which were captured as Dawn was about 1,200 miles above the surface.
Astronomers hypothesize that Ceres has been unchanged for the past 4 billion years. Because of this, they are anxious to study the dwarf planet and learn more about its early history. It is the biggest body in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, and may offer clues into how the universe was formed.
Although some scientists have suggested that the strange glowing is caused by ice on Ceres’ surface, the albedo, or the surface reflectivity of the planet, doesn’t line up with frozen water’s. NASA and its followers will have to wait until the Dawn spacecraft draws closer to Ceres this fall before we can say for sure what has caused the otherworldly luminescence.