This giant crater on Ceres with bright spots may be the most fascinating place in the solar system


For a few months in 2018, as NASA’s Dawn spacecraft used up its last drops of fuel, it gave scientists an incredibly detailed look at one of the strangest places in the solar system: Occator Crater.

That’s the name of a massive impact site on the dwarf planet Ceres, tucked away in the asteroid belt. In the mission’s last months, Dawn flew just 22 miles (35 kilometers) above the dwarf planet’s surface and focused its energies on Occator Crater. Earlier observations from the mission had suggested that some sort of geological activity was bringing saltwater to the surface, and scientists wanted a closer look.

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