No, you’re not looking at an artist’s watercolor impression of the Moon. That’s NASA’s false-color map of Ceres, generated using a mix of infrared and visible light filters onboard the Dawn spacecraft currently orbiting the dwarf planet. The resulting psychedelic freakout isn’t just for show, of course. The surface temperatures reflected in those colors give scientists an idea of both Ceres’ mineral contents and the age of its many craters and ridges. Reddish hues reveal materials that reflect infrared light, while green highlights spots that are much brighter than usual. Even if humanity never touches down on the planet’s surface, you’ll eventually know what you could expect from a first-hand visit.
[Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA]
Source: NASA JPL