occator crater

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Those Bright Spots on Dwarf Planet Ceres Lead To Unexpected Discovery

Scientists have been fascinated by Ceres’ mysterious bright spots for months; now they know what the spots are made of, but the answer has uncovered even more questions.

[DIGEST: NASA, Gizmodo]

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been taking images of Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt, since December 2014. As Dawn’s orbit brought it closer to the dwarf planet’s surface, a mystery appeared: Ceres has bright spots. Over 130 separate areas on Ceres, reaching up to 6 miles wide, shine out from their dark surroundings. After months of study and speculation, scientists have confirmed that the brightest spots are made of sodium carbonate, making Ceres’ Occator Crater the largest deposit of this sort of mineral ever found beyond Earth.

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