Universe

Researchers solve mystery of Ceres white patches

Sometimes imagination takes us nowhere. No, it’s not an alien city. The white patches on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres have another cause. Read here what the researchers from the Max Planck Institute found out.

In September, NASA’s dawn spacecraft had sent unusual images of the dwarf planet Ceres. To see: white spots, in the middle of the 90 km-wide crater Occator. What can this be? Moreover, scientists broke himself head in recent weeks – some Internet user suspected even an alien city. Now, the speculation is over. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for solar system research have solved the puzzle.

Evaporating water forms white spots and like this researchers solve mystery of Ceres white patches

The definition of researchers: 78 million years ago struck an asteroid on Ceres, blew away up to 4 km of the outer layer of rock and including exposed exposed ice. “We see currently probably remains of an evaporation process of that is differently far advanced at various points,” explains researcher of Andreas Nathues.

Researchers solve mystery of Ceres white patches
The Occator its a 90 km wide crater. Here is shown in false color: whenever the sunshine on the crater floor, a veil evaporating water. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

On some recordings, a veil across the crater floor was also to see when sunlight reaches the ground. Nathues: “apparently there evaporated water and bears small particles with it.” After evaporation, known as hydrated magnesium sulfate remained behind – a class of mineral salts. They appear as white spots on the pictures. Overall, the scientists have found 130 spots. Almost all are in craters or in its vicinity.

Amazing: Ice stops 414 km from the Sun

Well and good, but what brings this knowledge to researchers? It shows that frozen water could survive since the birth of the solar system not only in remote depths. “Our results show that underground ice may also be in the comparatively sonnennahen asteroid belt could hold,” Nathues said. “The superficial layer of the rock protects it against the influence of the Sun.”

Researchers solve mystery of Ceres white patches-
Dawn goes in December on rubbing shoulders with Ceres: the NASA spacecraft approaches surface of the dwarf planet on 375 km. Photo: Nasa/JPL

Ceres is located in an asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter – only 414 million km away from primary. The Jupiter with its ice-spewing moons is, however, almost twice as far away. And the water-rich comets are usually still further out on the edge of the solar system.

NASA’s dawn spacecraft approaches Ceres on 375 km

Maybe dawn sends still more photos with puzzles for scientists. Because the probe step by step enters ever on deeper orbits. She shot the latest photos from an altitude of 1470 km. But already mid-December she will approach the surface of the dwarf planet on 375 km.