Ceres' Bright Spots Continue to Mystify Astronomers

By Chris Mills on at

As NASA’s Dawn mission continues to circle dwarf planet Ceres, we’re getting better and more detailed images of the planet’s mysterious bright spots. And yet, science is no closer to understanding what’s making this far-off planet glow.

The latest images were taken by Dawn in its second mapping orbit, some 2,700 miles above the surface. That was close enough to peek inside the crater seen above, and capture yet more confusing images of the bright spots. The biggest spot (which looks unnervingly like a giant alien Pacman) is around six miles across, with the leading culprit being a reflective material like salt or ice. (Six miles is also big enough for an alien city. Just saying.)

Ceres' Bright Spots Continue to Mystify Astronomers

Dawn’s imaging passes have also revealed small mountains on the planet’s surface, nestled among Ceres’s many craters, rising about three miles high.

In a few weeks, Dawn will move into a lower orbit around 900 miles, arriving sometime in early August. Hopefully, that should give us a better idea of what’s causing the bright spots on Ceres, and we can start taking appropriate steps to arm humanity. [NASA JPL]