February 25, 2015

The mysterious bright spot on Ceres has a companion

The discovery of a mysterious bright spot on Ceres has given rise to lots of speculation. And now we've learned something new: it has a friend. The second spot is not quite as bright, but still weirdly reflective compared to the rest of the dwarf planet. And one scientist has a possible explanation for both of these bright spots.

The bright spots are here revealed as two distinct features inside the crater. (Image enlarged and sepia colored)

From photographs taken on February 19, 2015 at 46,000 kilometers away (29,000 miles), Dawn can finally see that the mysterious bright spot on Ceres is in a basin, and has a smaller, dimmer companion. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The latest round of photographs was taken by Dawn on February 19, 2015 when the spacecraft was still 46,000 kilometers away (29,000 miles) from the dwarf planet. It reveals not just the bright spot that has been provoking speculation for years, but now the imaging resolution is getting good enough to spot a second smaller and dimmer bright spot apparently in the same basin as the main attraction.

Could the lights be patches of ice, welling up from the interior of the biggest asteroid or there are other forces at work inside the crater?

Even as we discover more about Ceres, some mysteries only deepen.

 

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