Although the crater is around 20 million years old, there's evidence to suggest the salts on top of it are much, much younger. Running out of fuel, the spacecraft swooped in to an altitude of just below 35 kilometres (22 miles), collecting data in spectacular resolution: 10 times higher than the prime mission, with a particular focus on the Occator crater.
Dawn Principal Investigator Carol Raymond said, "We found two main pathways that allow liquids to reach the surface".
In one of the papers NASA published in Nature journals, experts revealed that the hills and mounds located on the crater could have been formed after the water flows, which were created by the original impact, froze over.
But by the mission's end, scientists still hadn't determined where the liquids came from: did it come from deep inside the dwarf planet and bubble up to the surface in a volcanic process? As the fractures achieved the salty reservoirs, the brine was in a position to arrive at the floor of the crater flooring.
Dwarf Planet Ceres Turns Out to Be Ocean World, New Study Says as Scientists Hunt For Signs of Life
Salt lowers the freezing point of water - increasing the likelihood of it being fluid.
Comprised of sea salt (sodium chloride) encapsulated in water molecules, the images from Dawn's infrared mapping device revealed the presence of hydrohalite - thanks to the work of Italian and US researchers. At the crater centre, there was the "sharply outlined Cerealia Facula" and there was a set of more diffused deposits called the Vinalia Faculae to the east.
Lead author Maria Cristina De Sanctis, of the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome, said this requires liquid water in combination with hydro-thermal activity. Not only does Ceres (a seemingly tiresome object in the asteroid belt) feature liquid water beneath its surface, shielded from radiation - but it also features salt.
"That material is unstable on Ceres' surface, and hence must have been emplaced very recently", she said.
At nearly 600 miles wide, Ceres is the biggest object in the asteroid belt.More news: Coronavirus: Two deaths and 542 cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Ireland
Of course, Earth is possibly the most unique of all the objects in the solar system as it is the only one known to be capable of harboring life as we know it.
Ceres' crater Occator has a bright spot, and it's crucial to grasp the nature of the dwarf planet, reports CNET. It belongs to a distinct class of objects - after the rocky inner planets like Earth and Mars and gas giants like Jupiter. These minerals are not often found in the Solar system. This implies that brine may well continue to be growing to the surface of the crater and that salty liquid could however exist inside of of Ceres. In the case of Ceres, we know the liquid reservoir is regional scale but we can not tell for sure that it is global.
Ms Castillo-Rogez said: "Further studies of Ceres' conditions and - above all - a follow-up mission are needed to study its evolution and potential habitability". That makes it a possible home for life in the solar system.
NASA's Europa Clipper mission and the Jupiter Icy moons explorer (JUICE) are being launched in the coming decade. The probe recorded unusual, anomalously bright spots called faculae in the dwarf planet's Occator crater, a 20-million-year-old impact crater. Recently exposed brine in the center of the crater was pushed up from a deep reservoir below Ceres' crust.
The various papers are available to read from Nature. The entire planetoid is only 590 miles (950 km) in diameter, so this crater is quite prominent.More news: Buccaneers activate Antonio Brown from suspended list
Ceres, which is either an asteroid or dwarf planet (depending on who you ask), may appear like an unremarkable orb of icy rock floating around, but the largest object in the asteroid belt might have once been a far-out ocean world.
It lies less than three times as far as Earth from the sun - close enough to feel the warmth of the star, allowing ice to melt and reform.
Bright reflective material in Ceres' Occator crater, imaged by NASA's Dawn spacecraft in Sept.2015. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are worldwide partners on the mission team.More news: Manchester City vs Liverpool, Premier League