Closing in on Ceres

The Dawn spacecraft is nearing the dwarf planet and largest asteroid Ceres. Nice pair of images on the APOD site today.

Scientists are pondering the white spots on the surface, but I’ve seen things like this before. Compare Ceres (imaged last Thursday, attribution here):

Ceres

to Umbriel, the moon of Uranus (imaged in 1986, attribution here):

umbriel

Umbriel appears darker in this image, but the two are actually fairly close in brightness. Notice the white patches near the top, and at about 1 o’clock and 7:30 on this image. More bright spots on Umbriel’s companion, Titania (image attribution here):

Titania

This moon is more spotted in white than either Ceres or Umbriel. The prevailing thought on the Uranian moons is cleaner ice dredged up by meteor impact. Or maybe water welling up from deep inside and freezing–the outer solar system equivalent of lava solidifying after a volcano erupts.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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