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NASA Finds Mysterious Bright Spot on Dwarf Planet Ceres


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Scientists are puzzled by a new image taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which found two bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres. The spots are noticeably brighter than other parts of the surface, which looks to be rocky and pockmarked.

They have 8 possible explanations for those bright spots on Ceres ~ Which one do you think it is?

1. A salt flat. It's not exciting, but one of the possibilities mentioned by NASA and others is that those bright spots are simply the reflection of large mineral deposits on the surface of Ceres left by some sort of impact, or from earlier days when it may have been covered by water. In other words, we might not be seeing anything more interesting than a big pile of salt or talc.

2. Shiny metals. NASA's Raymond says the brightness of the spots is consistent with a highly reflective material. On Earth, polished silver and aluminum are among the most reflective surfaces you can find, which is why they're used in large telescopes. While it's not clear if anyone would be available on Ceres to be doing the polishing, there's reason to believe both metals could exist there. Plenty of precious metals have been found in meteorites, and aluminum is actually the most abundant element in the Earth's crust. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to imagine that nearby rocky dwarf planets also harbor some as well.

Also, how do we really know that all our aluminum cans are really recycled? Who's to say they aren't being launched toward the asteroid belt?

3. Exposed ice. Ice can be another highly reflective material, and scientists think Ceres has plenty of the stuff below its surface. So what if an asteroid or comet collided with Ceres, puncturing a hole in that rocky shell and exposing the icy layer below to the sun?

4. Water vapor. Perhaps there are geologic processes happening on Ceres that caused some of its ice core to melt and then get shot out into space via a geyser of sorts. In 2014, the European Herschel telescope detected plumes of water vapor emanating from Ceres, and guess what? One of the plumes was located in the same area as the bright spots we're seeing now. Even if the spots aren't actually plumes, they could be involved in the explanation.

5. Ice volcanoes. This explanation kicks off the second, more out-there half of our list. Cryovolcanoes, or volcanoes that spew water or ice rather than lava, are believed to exist in the colder reaches of the solar system, and it would make sense to see them on Ceres given what's suspected about its water and ice content. However, the observations of the area around the bright spot give no indication that there are raised sections consistent with a volcano or piles of whatever type of debris it might fling about.

6. Aliens' solar concentrators. In a 2008 TED talk, physicist and futurist Freeman Dyson suggested that the dwarf planets of the outer solar system, near Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, would be a good place to look for life. Dyson thought that although finding it might be unlikely, it might not be that hard to search if we simply looked for the reflection of the mirrors and lenses that any life forms would surely need to concentrate sunlight to survive on places like Europa and beyond. It sounds far out, but could it be that we've just found some ancient, abandoned solar concentrators even closer to home than Dyson imagined?

7. Genetically engineered colonists from another civilization. In the same talk, Dyson also suggested that if we don't find life forms hanging out in the cold reaches of the outer solar system, we should genetically engineer our own life forms to go check it out. Obviously, we haven't reached that point yet, and we tend to favor sending robots rather than clones of ourselves with frost and radiation resistance, but what if another distant civilization beat us to the punch and has sent mutant, genetically enhanced images of themselves to start poking around in our asteroid belt?

8. It's a spacecraft. Finally, as many of you devoted CNET readers have suggested, the bright spots on Ceres seem to resemble headlights.

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"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

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My guess is that it's #3, exposed ice. I find it more believable then water vapor on a frozen planet. I do however hope it's aliens, and expect that we will find out soon. NASA's spacecraft Dawn is preparing to rendezvous with Ceres.

DarleneSignaturePic1.jpg

"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

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NASA craft circling Ceres in first visit to dwarf planet

(With Video)

http://news.yahoo.com/nasas-dawn-spacecraft-moves-dwarf-planet-ceres-075943911.html

DarleneSignaturePic1.jpg

"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

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