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Dwarf Planet Ceres’ Bright Spots Likely Salt Deposits

First Posted: Dec 16, 2015 03:17 PM EST
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The bright luminous spots that were observed on dwarf planet Ceres are most likely salt deposits. Researchers used NASA's Dawn spacecraft to carry out their observations of Ceres' surface and after month of observations, they concluded that the glowing spots are probably salt deposits, according to a study.

Ceres has over 130 bright spots and most of them are affiliated with impact craters, according to the researchers. Impact cratering is the excavation of a planet's surface when it is struck by a meteoroid.

The images that were captured by Dawn's framing camera indicated that the bright material is composed of a type of magnesium sulfate called hexahydrite. Epsom salt is a common type of magnesium sulfate which is found and used on Earth.

"We reviewed three possible analogs for the bright spots (ice, clays and salts). Salts seem to fit the bill and are the best possible explanation of what we see on the surface of Ceres," Lucille Le Corre, coauthor of the study from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, said in a news release.

The researchers claimed that the salt-rich areas were probably left behind when water-ice sunk into Ceres surface from the past. Also, impacts from asteroids would have excavated mixtures of salt and ice.

"The location of some bright spots also coincide with places where water vapor was detected by other spacecraft. This gives us confidence that the bright spots are likely salt deposits left over by sublimating salty water," said Vishnu Reddy, a coauthor of the study.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Nature.

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