MYSTERY WIRE — NASA says it has discovered salty water beneath the surface of a dwarf planet. The space agency’s Dawn spacecraft gathered the up-close views of planet “Ceres” before ending its mission in October 2018.
Launched in September 2007, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was sent on a mission to shed light on the early solar system. It explored the two largest bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
After studying giant asteroid “Vesta”, Dawn arrived at dwarf planet “Ceres” in 2015. By the time the mission ended in October 2018, the spacecraft had dipped to less than 22 miles (35 kilometers) above the surface.
Those up-close views revealed “mysterious bright regions”, which scientists later concluded to be deposits of sodium carbonate from liquid that likely filtered up to the surface and evaporated, leaving behind a reflective salty crust.
Scientists said Monday (10 August) they had concluded where the liquid came from – a deep reservoir of salt-enriched water, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) deep and hundreds of miles wide.
The scientists’ research focused on the 57-mile-wide (92-kilometer-wide) “Occator Crater”.
In October 2018, NASA called time on the Dawn mission, after the spacecraft ran out of its key fuel, hydrazine. NASA says it will remain in orbit of Ceres for decades.
Dawn remains the only spacecraft to ever orbit two extraterrestrial destinations.