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Cool image time! In this week’s release of new images from Dawn, the science released close-ups of one of the bright spots located on the floor of Occator Crater on Ceres. The image on the right, cropped and reduced in resolution to post here, shows one white-topped mesa in that crater.
The geometry of this feature is similar to a mesa or large butte with a flat top. It has been puzzling scientists since its discovery in the early images of the Dawn mission at Ceres. These new images reveal many details. In particular, the relationships between the bright material, mostly composed of sodium carbonate, and the dark background might hold clues about the origin of the facula.
If you click on the image you can see the full image at full resolution.
The sun appears to be coming from the southeast, with the mesa’s cliff’s at the top. Along with some scattered bright spots, the white material appears to have a bright area aligned along the cliff’s rim. The white material also appears to be flowing down one gully in that cliff face.
It is important to remember that these bright spots are generally found in a depression in the crater. scientists now think they are remnants of a volcano-like mound that after erupting slowly slumped back down. Note also that the soft puffiness of the cliff faces probably indicates the lower density of this material due to Ceres’s tiny gravity, about 3% that of Earth’s.