For months, NASA scientists (and the rest of us playing along at home) have been puzzling over a series of mysterious bright patches spotted in the middle of a huge crater on the dwarf planet Ceres.
First seen by the Dawn spacecraft, which is now steadily orbiting closer and closer to Ceres, NASA’s original assumption was that the patches were made of ice, but the wavelengths of light being reflected suggested otherwise. And despite coming up with a whole lot of hypotheses since then, they’ve publicly remained stumped as to what could be causing the patches – until now.
At the European Planetary Science Congress in France at the end of last month, Dawn’s principal investigator Chris Russell told scientists that they now believe the patches, which are located in the Occator crater, are huge salt deposits. “We know it’s not ice and we’re pretty sure it’s salt, but we don’t know exactly what salt at the present time,” said Russell in his address, which has since been posted online. Source: NASA is now “pretty sure” those weird white patches on Ceres are salt