NASA’s Dawn spacecraft left the Earth in 2007 and traveled to the nearest asteroid belt. The destination was a small dwarf planet named Ceres. This dwarf planet, which pricked our curiosity, came into view in January of 2015. But wait! We had to admire the scenery on the way there, right?
In the year 2011, we made a pit stop at Vesta, the second largest asteroid in the asteroid belt. Here, scientists conducted tests for over a year. The characteristics of Vesta resembled attributes of our solar system’s planets.
Our destination, of course, was Ceres, arrival time set for March 6, 2015. Still months away from reach, Ceres presented mysterious attributes which have NASA intrigued. As we move closer, our curiosity mounts. Ceres is the largest rock in the asteroid belt. It falls under the classification of an asteroid, but also as a dwarf planet. It is the smallest of the dwarf planets in our solar system, measuring 590 miles across – about the same size as the state of Texas!
It seems that Ceres offers characteristics that have us questioning. Scientists discovered that water comprises 25% of the planet’s composition. This is more than we have here on Earth. Observations of the newfound space rock reveal plumes of vapor erupting from its surface. This activity seems to be volcanic geysers! So, this heavenly body is more active than we thought!
One of the most astonishing aspects of Ceres is the appearance of a white spot on its surface. Marc Rayman, chief engineer and director of the Dawn mission, says, “We can definitely confirm that something round on the surface of Ceres is reflecting large amounts of the sunlight”. Scientists do not know what causes the spot, nor how long it has been on the surface of the dwarf planet. On March 6, however, we will be able to get a closer look at this anomaly.
Discoveries continue to baffle science, shedding light on the unknown. As we approach our destination we pause and admire the mysteries of the universe. What is this strange spot on Ceres? We just have to wait and find out! Aren’t you excited!