Space

Dawn image of dwarf planet Ceres brings white spots into sharper focus

Dawn image of dwarf planet Cer...
Two mysterious white spots come into resolution in this latest Dawn image of Ceres (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
Two mysterious white spots come into resolution in this latest Dawn image of Ceres (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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Two mysterious white spots come into resolution in this latest Dawn image of Ceres (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
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Two mysterious white spots come into resolution in this latest Dawn image of Ceres (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has snapped another image of the dwarf planet Ceres, bringing into focus two mysterious white spots present on the face of the rocky body that appear to exist within the same basin. The spacecraft and its handlers back on Earth are currently preparing for capture into Ceres' orbit, which is expected to take place on March 12.

Launched in September 2007, Dawn has traveled around 1.7 billion miles under the power of its three ion engines. The new image was snapped at a distance of 29,000 miles (46,000 km) from the planet, and appears to show a dominant white spot and a lesser companion resting together. The prominent feature is baffling agency scientists, who currently have no solid explanation as to the nature and cause of the spots.

"This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations," states Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission.

Previously Dawn had visited another of its primary scientific objectives, the asteroid Vesta. Over the course of its year-long mission, the orbiter snapped an impressive 30,000 images of the rocky body, discovering much about the formative period of the early solar system along the way. Undoubtedly, a similar analysis of the dwarf planet Ceres will unlock the secrets of the white spots, and a great many other things as it completes its epic mission.

Source: NASA

8 comments
Bob
I thought that there were supposed to be several white spots not just two.
Joel Detrow
It's the tip of a Mass Relay, SHUT EVERYTHING DOWN
Michael Flower
Wouldn't be "ironic" if First Contact, is simply by happenstance...
Kevin Ritchey
There are more than 2. As said before, it is simply a "rest stop" for beer drinking, traveling aliens who can't wait until they get home to pee. Time for us to build some craft that can surf the solar highways as well. That way we can get up there and clean up after their messes. Perhaps that's why we have abductions. But the cattle mutilations are still a mystery unless they like burgers with their brews. Probably ice deposits possibly left from previous contact with errant comet residue. Who knows. Better go there as soon as possible.
Craig Newhouse
Stone age Death Star?
Barry McCoy
Wanna bet that the cameras will "malfunction" once they get closer?
Readout Noise
> Wanna bet that the cameras will "malfunction" once they get closer? Barry, I will happily bet AGAINST that happening. As the medieval proverb goes, "A NASA conspiracy theorist fool and his money are soon parted".
Myles Twete
As bright as these spots are, I'd vote for crystal particles of some sort. Having said that, I'm thinking the Death Star and alien party waystation are intriguing possibilities...