Meanwhile, back on Ceres those bright spots continue to baffle scientists

While our attention has been focused on the remarkable fly-by of Pluto by spacecraft New Horizons, NASA’s other mission to survey dwarf planet Ceres has been continuing.

The Dawn spacecraft is in its second mapping orbit 4,400 kilometres above Ceres, but ne w images beamed back are raising more questions than answers.

Ceres is about 400 million kilometres from Earth and lies between Mars and Jupiter.

“What’s being seen on Ceres right now are just some really just outright baffling bright spots that have been defying explanation until now,” Gerard Van Belle, an Astronomer at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, told reporters.

But he says they are “probably salt deposits or ice deposits from lakes that evaporated or sunk into the surface”.

Next month we will get a closer look when Dawn descends to an altitude of just 1,450 kilometres.

You can see more of our news reports on the Dawn mission to Ceres here.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

Read science facts, not fiction...

There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.