Mission May Unravel Mystery of Ceres' 2 Bright Spots

NASA spacecraft enters the dwarf planet's orbit on March 6
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2015 12:42 PM CST
Mission May Unravel Mystery of Ceres' 2 Bright Spots
Ceres and its mysterious lights.   (NASA)

With a NASA spacecraft closing in on the dwarf planet Ceres, scientists were looking forward to figuring out the origins of a mysterious bright spot. But it turns out there are actually two bright spots, right next to each other, reports Mashable. The best guess continues to be ice of some kind, and NASA hopes to know for sure after the Dawn spacecraft enters Ceres' orbit on March 6. Once there, it will swoop as low as 232 miles above the surface as it maps the dwarf planet—and produces sharper images of those bright spots.

"Right now, all we can say is that the material reflects 40% or more of the light falling on it," UCLA astronomer Chris Russell tells NBC News. "This limit is because of the resolution of the camera at this distance from Ceres. If the final answer ... is that it reflects all the light that falls on it, then the most probable reflector would be ice." Another possibility is salt. (One astronomer thinks Ceres and Pluto are destined to be considered full planets.)

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