Ok that was a bad pun for a headline but this IS the best image yet from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft of the curious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres, which have been puzzled over by scientists since they were first spotted in Hubble observations in Dec. 2003.
And even with this incredible new view of the spots, acquired by Dawn on June 6, their precise nature is still a mystery.
“The bright spots in this configuration make Ceres unique from anything we’ve seen before in the solar system. The science team is working to understand their source. Reflection from ice is the leading candidate in my mind, but the team continues to consider alternate possibilities, such as salt. With closer views from the new orbit and multiple view angles, we soon will be better able to determine the nature of this enigmatic phenomenon,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission based at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Pretty much the only thing that scientists are quite sure about is that the spots are reflective, and not generating their own light.
“Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,” Russell said in an earlier statement.
Do you have an idea what the spots are? Send your vote to NASA.
Learn more about the Dawn mission here and, as always…