NASA's Dawn spacecraft takes a close-up of Ceres' brightest spot

NASA           Occator Crater

"Dawn is like a master artist, adding rich details to the otherworldly beauty in its intimate portrait of Ceres", explained Marc Rayman from the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The latest images released by NASA depict the 92-kilometer-wide Occator Crater of Ceres.

A dwarf planet, Ceres has always been the subject of astronomers' interest.

Dawn's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer had previously found the bright deposits to be made of sodium carbonate, a material commonly found in evaporite deposits on Earth.

This image of Ceres' limb was obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 30, 2018 from an altitude of about 280 miles. In June, it reached its lowest orbit yet, skimming the surface from just 22 miles (35 kilometres) up.

NASA's Dawn mission will soon come to an end, but before that happens, the spacecraft has been sending back its closest views of Ceres ever, including the sharpest details so far of the dwarf planet's weird bright spots.

These are the closest-ever images taken of our solar system's only dwarf planet and offer unparalleled insight into the bright spots on Ceres - freaky surface features known as faculae, created by massive deposits of sodium carbonate.

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In particular, scientists have been wondering how that material was exposed, either from a shallow, sub-surface reservoir of mineral-laden water, or from a deeper source of brines (liquid water enriched in salts) percolating upward through fractures. They show some of Ceres most interesting features, including large craters and a few geographical oddities that thus far remain unexplained. However, it still goes a question that where did that water came from?

Hopefully, the NASA's scientists will eventually find what is dwarf planet Ceres "hiding" before the NASA's Dawn probe ends it fuel which is expected to deplete in September.

Whichever it is, this evaporation or sublimation is likely an ongoing process, as images from the mission have revealed a very fine haze or fog lingering along the base of Occator crater at times.

Before its recent descent, the closest Dawn had traveled to Ceres was 240 miles (385 kilometers).

Dawn was constructed by Orbital Sciences and is operated by JPL, which is located in Pasadena, California.

Dawn was the first ever spacecraft to successful orbit two separate bodies in the solar system, thanks to its groundbreaking ion engines. "Last week Dawn fired its ion engine, possibly for the final time", NASA said on a blog devoted to the space probe. Dawn has been orbiting Ceres since 2015, after first exploring the asteroid Vesta. "While the extension of Dawn in ceras, it has been exciting to highlight the nature and history of this fascinating dwarf planet, and it is particularly appropriate that Don's final work will provide rich new data sets to test those principles".

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