Thursday, December 10, 2015

Flying Over Occator Crater


This is just wonderful: Real visual footage of a flyover of Occator Crater on Ceres.  Occator is, you'll remember, the site of mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet's surface. There was much speculation as to their nature. Ice? Salt? Effluvia from environmentally irresponsible alien factories?

And the answer is... (drum roll, please!) ... "hydrated magnesium sulfates mixed with dark background material." But before you get too disappointed over it not being water, there's more. A bright pit in the crater shows signs of sublimating water, including "afternoon haze." Taken together, these may mean there is s sub-surface layer of briny ice in Ceres. An underground frozen ocean, if you will.

Gizmodo has quite a nice overview article covering all this, which can be found here. Or you can read the abstract of the original paper, published in Nature  here.


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