NASA’s Dawn probe snaps close-ups of Ceres’ formerly mysterious white spots

To geologists on Earth Occator Crater's Vinalia Faculae region looks a lot like common volcanism. But the bright material here is mostly sodium carbonate also known as soda ash

The station was able to obtain images of a 92-kilometer impact crater Okkator, which attracts scientists white spots of unknown origin on its surface.

A dwarf planet, Ceres has always been the subject of astronomers' interest. This allowed the Dawn craft the flawless view over the 57-mile-wide (92 km) Occator Crater - the site of the famous bright spots. The spacecraft was launched by Nasa in September 2007, the first year, and was the first to send data from orbit two celestial bodies.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has entered into its final planned orbital position from which it will study the dwarf planet Ceres, the lowest the probe has descended to the tiny world since it arrived in orbit on March 6, 2015. The height at which the footage was obtained is only 35 km away. the Pictures of the mysterious stains help to determine the variability in their brightness.

Dawn's scientific sunset is expected to occur later this year when its thruster fuel runs out, but even then, the probe will continue to circle Ceres in a stable orbit - to preserve the dwarf planet's surface in pristine condition for any life-detection probes that may follow.

"We now hope to understand how the bright deposits outside the crater center came about - and what they tell us about Ceres' interior", Andreas Nathues from the institute stated in another statement. Previous observations from the spacecraft's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer revealed that these deposits, featured in a pronounced depression, are made up from sodium carbonate.

Close-up image of the Vinalia Faculae in Occator Crater.

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Scientists believe the salt deposits were exposed either from a shallow, sub-surface reservoir that may have dried up and left behind a layer of sodium carbonate, or from a deeper supply of briny, salt-enriched water that may have percolated up through fractures of Ceres' surface.

Commenting on the photo release, Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, likened the pioneering spacecraft to a "master artist". "Unraveling the nature and history of this fascinating dwarf planet during the course of Dawn's extended stay at Ceres has been thrilling, and it is especially fitting that Dawn's last act will provide rich new data sets to test those theories".

In addition, the photos might also shed light on the materials found on the dwarf planet's surface, giving us more information about its composition.

Dawn turned on its innovative ion engines for the first time on October 6, 2007.

Before its recent descent, the closest Dawn had traveled to Ceres was 240 miles (385 kilometers). Dawn orbited Versa from July 2011 to September 2012.

Dawn's principal investigator, Carol Raymond of JPL, chimed in on the spacecraft's current mission at Ceres and its upcoming finale.

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