Tour Weird Ceres: Bright Spots and a Pyramid-Shaped Mountain
This is dwarf planet Ceres, a mysterious world of rock and ice. How can you not be mesmerized by those glowing spots? We'll see those again in a moment along with some other amazing sights on this fascinating, alien world revealed by the Dawn spacecraft now in orbit there. And get your 3-D glasses ready!
Here we're taking a little tour around a 60-mile diameter crater named Occator, a Roman agricultural deity. It's two miles deep, and you can see these intriguing bright regions. They reflect a great more sunlight than the rest of the surface material, but scientists haven't yet determined what it is about their composition or structure that's responsible. There are a number of different ideas about what they are, but to discover their real nature we need to get more data from lower altitudes. Eventually, however, as we learn more about them they may provide insights into the geology of this complex dwarf planet.
This mountain is among the tallest features on Ceres, a cone that juts 4 miles high from an otherwise unremarkable area. It isn't in a crater or even obviously associated with one. So what forces shaped it? And why does it have this varying appearance: dark on one side and now we're coming around to the other side and we can see these bright streaks running down one side. What does this structure tell us about how this world works? This is another of the captivating mysteries about Ceres.
Now put on your 3-D glasses and have another look at the first dwarf planet ever discovered. Dawn's going to be getting still better views as it orbits closer and closer and uses its camera and other sophisticated sensors to reveal the secrets Ceres has held since the dawn of the solar system.