SOFIA Observations of Ceres Show You Can’t Judge an Asteroid by Its Cover(ing)

The dwarf planet Ceres, at 587 miles wide the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, has a different surface composition than previously thought—and it took NASA and DLR’s Boeing 747-based SOFIA observatory to make the distinction. By observing Ceres in mid-infrared, only possible from high altitudes above infrared-absorbing water vapor, SOFIA found that…

Dawn Sees Landslides and a Central Ridge in a Young Crater on Ceres

Ceres’ Haulani Crater, with a diameter of 21 miles (34 km), shows evidence of landslides from its crater rim. Smooth material and a central ridge stand out on its floor. This image was made using data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft when it was in its high-altitude mapping orbit, at a distance of 915 miles (1,470…

Ceres’ Bright Spot Looks Like a Giant Zit

After more than a dozen years of head-scratching we finally have our first really good look at the weird bright spot on Ceres, thanks to NASA’s Dawn spacecraft and its low-altitude mapping orbit (aka LAMO) around the dwarf planet. Appearing from 240 miles up as a dome covered in cracks and rising from the surrounding darker…

What Would it Take to Knock the Moon Out of Orbit?

Whenever there’s news of an asteroid expected to pass closely by Earth (like this one did on Halloween 2015) at least one person will ask “what if it hit the Moon?” — as if that’s a scenario that somehow all of the astronomers around the world who specialize in near-Earth objects failed to take into…

Surprise: Ceres’ Bright Spots are Probably Salt

So now that NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been in orbit around Ceres for seven months, has the nature of its strange bright spots finally been determined? Are they brilliantly reflective deposits of water ice, as many initially suspected? Or just some curiously-bright rock faces? (Or the metallic remains of an ancient alien space base, like more…

Dawn Finds Similarities Between Ceres and Saturn’s Moons

Around 600 miles wide, covered in craters and cliffs, a composition of rock and water ice… these are descriptions of both several of Saturn’s moons and the dwarf planet Ceres, based on recent observations by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. New topographical maps show that, in terms of surface features anyway, Ceres shares similarities with Saturn’s icy…

Do You See Bright Spots on Ceres? Icy Bright Spots on Ceres.

Ok that was a bad pun for a headline but this IS the best image yet from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft of the curious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres, which have been puzzled over by scientists since they were first spotted in Hubble observations in Dec. 2003. And even with this incredible new view…