A closer close-up of Ceres’ double bright spot

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

Closer look at Ceres' double bright spot

Cool image time! In a new press release, the Dawn science team has unveiled a new close-up of Ceres’ double bright spot, shown on the right.

At least eight spots can be seen next to the largest bright area, which scientists think is approximately 6 miles (9 kilometers) wide. A highly reflective material is responsible for these spots — ice and salt are leading possibilities, but scientists are considering other options, too.

In other words, they still have not confirmed through spectroscopy, that these bright spots are ice.

Note also that they have reduced the image’s brightness so that the bright spots do not over expose as much as in past images. This not only allows more details to come out, but it portrays Ceres’ very dark surface more accurately. Even so, the image still shows that surface as brighter than it actually is.

A mountain on Ceres

The press release also described a second image, showing a single lonely mountain on the planet’s horizon, rising up three miles from the planet’s surface, shown in the cropped image to the left. Overall this image, as well as the others, suggest that the surface of Ceres is generally far less rough than we should expect.

Another science mystery to unravel!


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This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

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  • DougSpace

    I sure hope that it is water ice since that would make the early colonization of the asteroid belt easier.

  • Nicholas Paizis

    That “new close up” picture is 13 days old.

    I wish we could get timely updates on new images. Same thing with the Pluto project. They take images on a daily basis but wait weeks to release them.


  • larry

    so very cool. just to see this resolution is incredible.

  • LocalFluff

    I don’t know for this picture in particular, but in general ESA keeps their science data secret for 6-12 months. Their scientists are worse than other scientists in the same field, so they need a humiliating handicap in the form of secret data in order to manage to publish anything at all. Later, of course, the superior non-ESA related scientists will completely revise all the mistakes that the ESA-secrecy dependent clowns commit, so please wait a year after first paper before you can judge the quality of it. But somehow the clowns get rich on this secrecy. It is not as if they financed the mission themselves, but they stole taxpayers’ money while lying that they do it to promote science… by keeping science data secret.

    NASA may have some priorities wrong, but they sure understand and respect what science is. They release all data as real time as could be, because they want to stimulate the best scientists in the world. And they know that they will come to the US because that’s where the best scientists in the world go. Europe tries to keep the second best scientists at home by bribing them with secret tax paid space data. It doesn’t work out. But as long as someone is getting rich doing it, there will always be a lobby for keeping on failing.

  • Nicholas Paizis


    NASA is now running about 5 days behind, which is a significant improvement over the previous 2-3 weeks.


    I guess I’m just impatient considering the incredible discoveries that are unfolding before our eyes.

  • Edward

    There was a discussion on this point, on this blog, last month.

    The scientists (who did all the work to propose the various instruments on the probe, did all the work to manufacture these instruments, and did all the work to obtain the data) would like the opportunity for first publication. If they did not have such an opportunity, then it would be much more worth their while to spend their time and efforts on non-publicly funded experiments. Then NASA would have no pool of scientists from which to draw their expertise.

    The scientists involved want to hold onto the best images and data so that their publications will be better than any publications that may come from early-released images. Contractual obligations allow this data to be privately kept (not secret — that has a different meaning) until some later time, when it will be put into the public domain. Sometimes this delay is one year. (Even privately-funded work on the ISS may only be privately kept for up to five years, then it is contractually obligated to be put into the public domain.)

    You may not like this arrangement, but it gives incentive to the scientists to go to all the work it takes to get these amazing images. Otherwise, they would merely piggy-back on the work of someone else and spend their time performing (or using the data from) other experiments.

    Who would spend the years to design and make these space instruments if there were no incentive to do so — if they could be doing privately funded experiments every few months with more opportunities each year to show their prowess at science?

    The people who put their effort into these probes and instruments deserve a reward for doing so. That reward is the right to have the opportunity for first publication.

    The alternate — to put all data into the public domain immediately — would allow for foreign scientists to make initial discoveries. It would not have been their tax money going into the research, but it would be they (not U.S. scientists) who would be eligible for various scientific praise, notoriety, and prizes. Your tax money would have been squandered so that some other country gets all the glory.

    I do not know any scientists who “get rich” from this method of performing science. Also, please be careful who you accuse of theft and insincerity; the contracts are clear on how long data may be privately kept. That these scientists, their organizations, and their countries want to promote excitement for these projects is why there are so many images made available so quickly.

    If the scientists financed the science themselves, then they would have absolutely no incentive to release any data or images at all. The incentive would be the opposite: to keep them proprietary for as long as it took to publish or to get around to publishing, if they ever published. At that point, with the scientist taking all the financial risk, I would hope that the scientists that succeeded *did* get rich in order to provide incentive to other scientists to send additional self-funded probes.

    Delays are also due to the large number of images that come back. Some are more interesting than others and take time to choose for immediate publication with some early analysis (the analysis also takes time to perform). If they publish all images without comment, then the reporters would not know what they were looking at or which images to publish or why, and might make up terribly misleading stories. Worse, they may skip the pictures and move on to news that they can report more intelligently.

  • Nicholas Paizis


    I heard your argument the first time. I still don’t buy it the second time but let’s not clog this board with an unsolvable difference in points of view.

  • Edward


    I worked in the business. I know how it works. You worked in the semiconductor business, which privately funded its scientific endeavors (product development). Your experience may have left you unable to see how the other side works. Fortunately, many people who invested in your company invested wisely and are able to retire in comfort, which is the byproduct of the purpose of your company: supplying a useful product.

    I hope that you don’t buy into the theft, greed, and insincerity portions of LocalFluff’s argument. Not only is it cynical and emotional, but it is untrue.

    I hope that in the future, you will come to understand that more than cash is invested in NASA’s probes. Scientists’ time and careers are also part of the investment. Just as your investors are rewarded, the scientists should likewise be rewarded for their investment. Had they chosen to work in your business, they wouldn’t have missed out on the accolades that come from the frequent papers written documenting their contributions to perpetuating Moore’s Law.

    Instead, their work on space instruments takes years to come to fruition, but you would take away their ability to receive their deserved rewards. I think allowing them their deserved reward is worth a short wait for a public viewing of some photographs.

  • Nick P


    Your reply to my reply does not allow a reply, so I will reply to your original statement.

    The scientists are paid a salary, are they not? I assume they have retirement options, 401Ks etc. So lets not give the impression that they are volunteering their time in an altruistic sense. I do not elevate scientists to the level of Priesthood. They’re people just like the rest of us. In fact, I see them as among the luckiest people in the world. To be a part of some of these space exploration endeavors is something I’d pay to be a part of if they’d let me. These guys get paid to do it and they want to keep our data to themselves for extended periods of time to boot?

    The point has been made that if everyone had immediate access to the data, people could benefit who had no hand in paying the bill. That’s a valid point, but why do we explore? For personal gain? Personal glory? Or for the love of knowledge? It’s been said that amazing things can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the glory. Your argument seems to hold that the NASA scientists are entitled to the glory on someone else’s dime.

    One man’s opinion.

  • Edward

    Nick P wrote: “So lets not give the impression that they are volunteering their time in an altruistic sense.”

    If they were doing it just for the cash, then they would work for a company like Intel, where there is cash to be had. They are not volunteering their time, but they are most definitely not getting to do as much science as those whose experiments take only a few months or weeks. Gravity Probe-B, for example, took some scientists’ entire careers. You may want to give them a little credit for a little selflessness.

    Nick P wrote: “I do not elevate scientists to the level of Priesthood. ”

    No. You lower them to the level of someone who merely does a job. If all they wanted was the cash, then they wouldn’t have spent the money and time to get PhDs. Either they would have gone straight to work out of high school or they would have become specialist MDs, where there is more money to be had.

    Nick P wrote: “In fact, I see them as among the luckiest people in the world. ”

    At which point you go on to suggest that they should work for free, just for the fun of it. That they should not get any credit for the hard work that they put into the exploration.

    Nick P wrote: “but why do we explore? For personal gain? Personal glory? Or for the love of knowledge?”

    Yes. Yes. And yes. Why does Intel try to figure out how to put more transistors on a chip? And why do they advertise that there is Intel Inside (R)?

    Columbus was going to get rich from a shorter route to India. People name landmarks after themselves. PhDs get their degrees because they like the learning, the exploration of the unknown, and sometimes they get discoveries named after themselves.

    Nick P wrote: “amazing things can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the glory.”

    Amazing things get accomplished when people get credit for their work, too. Next time you watch a blockbuster movie, notice how many people get credit in the credits, and notice how remote some of their tasks were to what you saw on the screen. (Caterers getting credit? Hardly any creativity expressed on screen from their work. Go figure.) All those people got paid, and the dime was not their own but the producer’s.

    But scientists, whom you say are people, too, are not in it for any kind of recognition?

    On someone else’s dime? Just because it is publicly funded does not mean that the general public should get the use of it. Or do you think that you should be entitled to drive the Army’s tanks?

    It has been said that patience is a virtue. Why are you impatient about some of the photographs?

    Since you are willing to pay to work on a space project, let some of the organizations that are working on space projects know, then you, too, might be among the luckiest people in the world. NASA, universities, and various companies may be eager for your skill set. Volunteer organizations may be eager for your money as well as your skill set. It is an exciting time in the space business, and I sincerely recommend that you try to become one of the luckiest people.

  • Nick P


    It’s unfortunate that any attempt at a conversation with you degrades into your relying on insults and putdowns to try and make your case.

    Have a nice day.

  • Edward

    I am sorry that you feel insulted or put down. Also, I can’t have a nice day when you do not explain what you think is insulting.

    This is the second time that you have accused me of insulting you, and the second time that I ask for clarification so that I can do better in the future. This is the future that might have gone better had you provided useful feedback the other time. Please tell me where or how you felt insulted, not only today but last month:

    My intention is not to insult you or to put you down. My intention is to show you that you do not view scientists in the same way as someone who has worked with a great many of them, and that your view of them is incorrect.

    I am sincere in asking you to work for a space-related organization. You seem like you would truly enjoy it (if this is what you considered a put-down).

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