Layman help sought in solving dwarf planet mysteries

Posted: September 30, 2015 by oldbrew in exploration, solar system dynamics
This image of Ceres is part of a sequence taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 5 and 6, 2015, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers)

This image of Ceres is part of a sequence taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 5 and 6, 2015, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers)

It’s ‘baffled scientists’ time again, but now they want the public to help them out, reports

Throwing open the doors to the hallowed halls of science, stumped researchers welcomed help from the public Wednesday in solving a number of nagging mysteries about dwarf planet Ceres.

NASA’s space probe Dawn, which travelled seven-and-a-half years and some 4.9 billion kilometres to reach Ceres in March this year, is the first to orbit a dwarf planet.The probe is seeking to learn more about the structure of Ceres, which circles the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, in a bid to better understand the formation of Earth and other planets.

But many of the features of Ceres have left researchers scratching their heads — including a six-kilometre (four-mile) high protrusion they have dubbed “Lonely Mountain”.

Or you could sit back and wait until the space probe nears Ceres and gets better pictures:

Scientists hope to learn more when Dawn moves in closer — starting in October and into December — as the spacecraft will descend to its lowest and final orbit at an altitude 375 kilometres.

The probe will continue capturing images of Ceres and collecting higher-resolution data. It is due to stay in operation to mid-2016.

Full report: Layman help sought in solving dwarf planet mysteries

  1. Stephen Richards says:

    At the moment it doesn’t look as interesting as Pluto the demoted planet.

  2. oldbrew says:

    Give it a chance. Don’t forget Pluto is barely 2/3rds the size of our Moon.

  3. ivan says:

    I have a few ideas that I might use in one of my Science Fiction stories but other than that what exactly do they expect the public to come up with?

    Stephen, Pluto has also been used in a SF story – Construction Shack by Clifford D. Simak 1973.

  4. E.M.Smith says:


    And since lunar solar orbit is never retrograde and always concave to the sun we ought to be considered as a binary planet system.

  5. oldbrew says:

    EM Smith: the sticking point seems to be that the Earth-Moon barycentre is ‘inside’ the Earth’s diameter and for a binary it’s supposed to be outside, i.e. somewhere between the Earth and the Moon.

    According to theorists the Moon is moving away from the Earth, but very slowly so nothing much will change for millions of years.

  6. Bob Weber says:

    The alleged mountain, located right next to a crater, looks like a currently ongoing plasma discharge. If it is, I think when the discharge moves or is done, a new crater will be there and somewhere else nearby, a new discharge will begin, starting the creation of another new crater.

    If that’s the case, I wonder how long it takes for that to happen.

    How did they determine it’s a ‘mountain’? Have they seen it in relief? It’s a matter of perspective.

    [mod] for full size image see first comment above

  7. ivan says:

    Now is the time for speculation with the added information that it is sending particle beams at the encroaching spacecraft.

    This could make an even greater SF story.

  8. oldbrew says:

    Interesting, Ivan – but not unheard of?


    “We know that objects in space, including Earth’s Moon, may become electrostatically charged by exposure to solar ultraviolet light and incoming charged particles. This is comparable to what happens when you rub your hair against a balloon, or when a shirt or blouse rubs against a sweater,” said Nordheim. [student researcher]

  9. ivan says:

    Oldbrew, I know that from some research I did for one of my SF stories but I have to say it can make some good plot points in stories. The big problem is to know which hat I should be wearing when they ask for comments from the general public, the engineers or the writers.

  10. Bob Weber says:

    When you look at the second image below, which is supposed to be of the same ‘lonely mountain’ in the first image, you’ll see three large depressions in the surface, that appear to be craters.

    Notice in the first image that the walls of the two craters near the ‘mountain’ are smooth, with linear streaks pointing downward into the depth of the craters, both with sharply defined upper and lower edges, and where both have an inner center surface that looks much rougher than the walls do.

    The ‘mountain’ has bright linear features that appear to be a plasma discharge that is creating the exact same kind of smooth wall-like surface as seen in the craters, also with sharply defined edges, and with a similar looking center area as do the craters.

    Based in the shadows in the first image, the sun is on the left side of Ceres, putting the bright linear areas in the sunshine, away from the “mountain’s” shady side.

    While I consider it possible that there is a mountain there, I will only believe it if I see a profile image of it on the horizon, so we can see it for sure that it indeed is what is claimed, without the CGI effect.

    The biggest problem I see with defending the impact theory of crater formation is there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of any boulders, of any oblong impacts, of any debris at all. Why would the walls of impact craters be so smooth?

    Everything in the first image mimics results I’ve seen from crater experiments done by plasma machining. If so, is the second CGI topo map showing a ‘mountain’ a NASA misunderstanding, or mine?

  11. oldbrew says:

    Could the mountain be formed from the ex-contents of the crater?

  12. tallbloke says:

    Up on Kidsty Pike a couple of weeks ago I noticed an unusual bright feature on the opposite hillside below Riggingdale crags. Careful observation with binoculars revealed it to be a slab of rock with water seeping across it. The Sun was reflecting off the water. I wonder if this feature is ice from an impacted comet.

  13. Bob Weber says:

    OB that is a good question – I had thought that too but four miles high? Which crater would have done that? Is there enough material in any of them to pile up for 4 miles, especially all the material dumped in one place? Where is the slumping from supposedly loose material on the mountain? Why are all the nearby craters sharp-edged without apparent damage, erosion, or covering from the supposed impact fallout?

    Looking at the first image on the left hand side, from the bottom corner upwards, there’s several craters that look to be connected by a shallow “rille”, in this case, a broad valley-like rille. Rilles are excavated trenches that look like lines etched in the surface that very often connect craters together in haphazard lines, and are a part of the plasma discharge channel that moves with time, according to plasma cosmology proponents.

    Moons, Mercury, Mars all have similar round craters, and hardly any, if any, oblong craters from side or angled impacts, and they all have rilles connecting the craters in various places in many places. So all in all, this ‘mountain’ is no less mysterious than any of that, and so I question the standard explanation.

  14. tallbloke says: