SCIENCE

NASA Photo Captures Clearest Image Yet Of Ceres' Mysterious Bright Spots

Scientists say they’re getting closer to discovering what they could be.

A stunning new image released by NASA Wednesday gives the closest and clearest look yet at mysterious bright spots speckling a crater on the dwarf planet Ceres.

NASA released new high-resolution images of the bright spots on Ceres.
NASA released new high-resolution images of the bright spots on Ceres.

The minor planet, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, is a focus of NASA's Dawn mission. The image of Ceres' Occator crater was taken at an altitude of 915 miles, according to NASA. It's three times better resolution than the images taken by the Dawn spacecraft in June from 2,700 miles above the surface. 

"Dawn has transformed what was so recently a few bright dots into a complex and beautiful, gleaming landscape," Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission director, said of the revealing picture.

In the next two months, scientists will attempt to map the entire planet six times using the spacecraft. By doing this at slightly different angles, scientists will be able to construct more thorough 3D maps, according to NASA.

A photo taken of the crater in June shows the bright spots at a distance of 2,700 miles.
A photo taken of the crater in June shows the bright spots at a distance of 2,700 miles.

Scientists are still not sure what could be causing the mysterious bright spots, and have said they could be many things, including salt deposits, ice geysers or volcanos.

"Soon, the scientific analysis will reveal the geological and chemical nature of this mysterious and mesmerizing extraterrestrial scenery," Rayman said.

Our guess is it's all caused by aliens, but that could be wrong.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly suggested that Dawn is a manned spacecraft.

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