The Discovery of 'Planet' Ceres

This artist's impression is based on a detailed map of the surface compiled from images taken from NASA's Dawn spacecraft in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. It shows the very bright patches of material in the crater Occator and elsewhere. New observations using the HARPS spectrograph on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla in Chile have revealed unexpected daily changes on these spots, suggesting that they change under the influence of sunlight as Ceres rotates.

For a long time, astronomers believed that there must have been a planet lurking in the gap between Mars and Jupiter. What they found was Ceres, and this object's story is one of scientific cattiness and our ever-evolving understanding of space.

Artist's view of bright spots on Ceres imaged by the Dawn spacecraft. ESO/L.Cal├žada/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/Steve Albers/N. Risinger ( ( Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)

Topics in this Podcast: Science, astronomy, Ceres, Giuseppe Piazzi, 19th century, NASA