NASA may have solved mystery surrounding bright spots on dwarf planet

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NASA May Have Solved Mystery Surrounding Bright Spots On Dwarf Planet


When images of Ceres were first beamed back, the scientific community was rather stunned by the presence of numerous bright spots on the dwarf planet's surface.

A new study on the matter reveals insights into the phenomenon.

The researchers determined the roughly 130 glowing areas contain a material that appears to be a magnesium sulfate variety known as hexahydrite.

Sublimated water ice is the proposed source of the salty component.

The scientists speculate the substance was brought to the surface by meteor strikes.

Notably, the majority of the spots are located within impact craters.

Said Andreas Nathues, one of the researchers, "The global nature of Ceres' bright spots suggests that this world has a subsurface layer that contains briny water-ice."

The team says that to figure out why some of the glimmering areas are more intense than others they will need more detailed readings.

See photos from Ceres:
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NASA may have solved mystery surrounding bright spots on dwarf planet
This image, made using images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, shows Occator crater on Ceres, home to a collection of intriguing bright spots. (Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
The intriguing brightest spots on Ceres lie in a crater named Occator, which is about 60 miles (90 kilometers) across and 2 miles (4 kilometers) deep.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/LPI
NASA's Dawn spacecraft took this image that shows a mountain ridge, near lower left, that lies in the center of Urvara crater on Ceres.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft took this image of Gaue crater, the large crater on the bottom, on Ceres. Gaue is a Germanic goddess to whom offerings are made in harvesting rye.

(Photo via NASA)

This Feb. 19, 2015 image shows the swarf planet Ceres provided by NASA, taken by the agency's Dawn spacecraft from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). It shows that the brightest spot on Ceres has a dimmer companion, which apparently lies in the same basin, seen at center of the image. Dawn is preparing to rendezvous with the largest object in the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter, scheduled to go into orbit Friday, March 7 after a three-year journey. Dawn is about 590 miles (950 kilometers) in diameter. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
This March 1, 2015 photo provided by NASA shows Ceres is seen from NASA's Dawn spacecraft just a few days before the mission achieved orbit around the previously unexplored dwarf planet to begin a 16-month exploration. The image was taken at a distance of about 30,000 miles. (AP Photo/NASA)
Robert Mase, right, project manager for the Dawn mission at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, speaks at news conference, with Carol Raymond, deputy project scientist at JPL, left, at JPL in Pasadena on Monday, March 2, 2015. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is scheduled to slip into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres on Friday, the last stop in a nearly eight-year journey. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Robert Mase, project manager for the Dawn mission at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, speaks at news conference at JPL in Pasadena on Monday, March 2, 2015. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is scheduled to slip into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres on Friday, the last stop in a nearly eight-year journey. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
This morning, our @NASA_Dawn mission arrives at the dwarf planet #Ceres: http://t.co/49tIUjqOj2 http://t.co/bFHlRte7Nj
Dawn robotic spacecraft next to Ceres and Vesta, members of the asteroid belt, to study them in space. - Elements of this image furnished by NASA
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