Environment & Science

Ceres' 'lonely mountain' still mysterious, despite closest images yet

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. The image was taken on August 19, 2015. The resolution of the image is 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel.
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. The image was taken on August 19, 2015. The resolution of the image is 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel.
NASA
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. The image was taken on August 19, 2015. The resolution of the image is 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel.
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. The center of this crater is sunken in. Its diameter is 84 kilometers (52 miles). The resolution of the image is 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel. The image was taken from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers) on August 18, 2015.
NASA
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. The image was taken on August 19, 2015. The resolution of the image is 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel.
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. Urvara is an Indian and Iranian deity of plants and fields. The crater's diameter is 101 miles (163 kilometers). This view was acquired on August 19, 2015, from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The resolution of the image is 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel.
NASA


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On Tuesday, NASA released the most detailed pictures yet of the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The photos were taken by the Dawn space probe as it orbited just 915 miles above the surface.

The latest batch of images includes one showing the shiny and mysterious "lonely mountain" that puzzled scientists when it was spotted in earlier pictures.

So what did we learn from the close-ups? 

"Well, it's not a whole lot different than what we had seen farther away," said Dawn principal scientist Carol Raymond.

"The big difference is just in the details."

For instance, it's clear now that the mountain has sharp boundaries around its base and narrow ridges down its slope.

Raymond added that the reflective material is likely salt deposits. NASA is currently holding a survey where people can guess what might be causing similar bright spots on another part of the planet.

Ceres is about the size of Texas and is roughly one third water. Some researchers think it may have once contained a vast underwater ocean.

In December, the Dawn probe will execute an even closer flyby, soaring 230 miles above the surface.

Carol Raymond hopes the data gathered will help her team piece together the history and composition of this alien world.