Scientists are investigating a mysterious, pyramid-shaped mountain on the surface of Ceres,. The triangular peak was spotted by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft as it orbited 2,700 miles above the distant dwarf planet. The mountain towers three miles above Ceres’ flat surface – more than half the height of Everest. “Curiouser & curiouser. @NASA_Dawn sees pyramid-shaped peak,” NASA tweeted after taking images of the mystery mountain.
As the craft gets closer to Ceres – the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter – more and more features are beginning to reveal themselves. They include “mysterious bright spots” in a 55-mile-wide crater. At least eight spots can be seen in the largest bright area, which scientists think is approximately six miles wide. They believe a highly reflective material is responsible for the spots, with ice and salt leading possibilities.
Dawn’s infrared mapping spectrometer allows scientists to identify specific minerals on Ceres by looking at how light is reflected. Each mineral reflects light wavelengths in a unique way, allowing experts to determine the planet’s rock and ice composition. As the spacecraft sends back more images and data, NASA will learn more about the bright spots. Experts have also identified numerous craters of varying sizes, many of which have central peaks.
They say there is “ample evidence” of past activity on the planet’s surface, including landslides and collapsed structures. “The surface of Ceres has revealed many interesting and unique features,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “For example, icy moons in the outer solar system have craters with central pits, but on Ceres central pits in large craters are much more common.