Rejoice, NASA’s Dawn mission is set to search the alien world for traces of life, as mission scientists say they will bring the spacecraft closer to the surface of the planet than ever before.
Ceres is a dwarf planet and the largest astronomical object in the asteroid belt, a region of our solar system that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter; Its diameter of approximately 945 km makes it the thirteenth largest known object in the solar system.
It is also the only dwarf planet whose trajectory is completely within the orbit of Neptune.
However, it is also a distant place in our solar system where life, alien life, may exist.
Ceres became well-known for its mysterious “Bright Spot,” an area on the surface of the dwarf planet that created confusion among experts who were initially unable to explain the strange phenomenon.
Alien hunters said the bright spot looked like ‘city lights’ as seen from space.
However, NASA’s Dawn mission has taught us that Ceres has more than 300 patches of bright material scattered across its surface.
NASA seems to be fascinated with Ceres, and according to astronomers, this strange dwarf planet may be the perfect place to search for alien life.
NASA’s Dawn mission has shown that Ceres may be much more habitable than what scientists though previously. Now, the US space agency plans to analyze Ceres in detail, and will do so by sending its Dawn spacecraft closer than ever to its mysterious surface.
NASA’s Dawn mission as supposed to come to an end nearly three years ago, however, to the surprise of scientists, the spaceship is still functional and can further help NASA in their search for alien life.
Speaking about the dwarf planet, Lynnae Quick, a planetary geologist at the Smithsonian Institution said: “We believe these bright spots are signs that Ceres once had a global ocean and we are very excited about that.”
“We believe that what happened at Ceres in the past may be similar to what might be happening today, although on a larger scale in some of the active icy moons in the outer solar system,” Quick said, making reference to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, or Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which scientists believe are some of the most promising candidates for extraterrestrial life within our solar system.
Therefore, mission scientists at Dawn have given the spacecraft a new mission: sneak up on the surface of Ceres, just to better observe the alien landscape.
“We’re going to be using an elliptical orbit to dive closer to the surface than we have before, down to 30 kilometers altitude,” said Carol Raymond, one of the NASA scientists and mission members of the Dawn mission.
Despite the fact that this is exciting news, Raymond said that it is difficult to say at this time precisely how long this new mission will last, since the team is not sure how much fuel Dawn has left or how quickly it will run out with the maneuvers that the spacecraft is set to perform, in order to get closer to Ceres.
However, the spacecraft will probably start approaching the dwarf planet this spring and will most likely spend three or four months exploring the alien world.
Even though scientists hope to find traces of alien life on Ceres, if they don’t, the Dawn spacecraft will try and answer some incredibly intriguing questions about the dwarf planet and origins of our solar system.
In particular, scientists want to use the time to study the chemistry of the surface and better understand the magnetism and volcanism of the dwarf planet.
Maybe, along the way, they’ll find traces of alien life, on a distant ‘frozen world,’ with a surface area of 2,800,000 km².