Mystery ‘alien’ lights on Ceres, are seen closer than ever. Image from Dawn spacecraft confirm that Ceres ‘bright spots’ are a series of several smaller lights.
Ceres is part of a sequence taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 16, 2015, from a distance of 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Astronomers are still confused about these spots, with theories ranging from giant ice volcanoes to salt flats.
NASA’s Dawn mission captured a sequence of images, taken for navigation purposes, of dwarf planet Ceres on May 16, 2015. The image showcases the group of the brightest spots on Ceres, which continue to mystify scientists. It was taken from a distance of 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) and has a resolution of 2,250 feet (700 meters) per pixel.
Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission from the University of California, Los Angeles, said:
“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.”
The spacecraft has been using its ion propulsion system to maneuver to its second mapping orbit at Ceres, which it will reach on June 6. The spacecraft will stay at a distance of 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) from the dwarf planet until June 30. Afterward, it will make its way to lower orbits.