NASA Reveals Closest Look at Ceres' Mysterious Bright Spots

by Keith Wagstaff /  / Updated 

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NASA's Dawn spacecraft provided the closest view yet of the Occator crater, located on the dwarf planet Ceres. The crater is home to some of Ceres' intriguing bright spots, which scientists have theorized could be anything from ice to salt deposits.

NASA created the recently released image of the crater by combining two images: one of the properly exposed bright spots and one of the land around them captured at a normal exposure.

Each was taken at 915 miles above the dwarf planet's surface, providing the closest glimpse yet of the crater, which measures 60 miles wide and two miles deep.

NASA also turned the images — captured with a resolution of 450 feet per pixel — into a rotating, virtual fly-over animation.

Dawn will get even closer to Ceres in October, when it's expected to enter its final orbit 230 miles above the dwarf planet's surface. The spacecraft has been orbiting there since March 6, 2015.

"Dawn has transformed what was so recently a few bright dots into a complex and beautiful, gleaming landscape," Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer, said in a statement. "Soon, the scientific analysis will reveal the geological and chemical nature of this mysterious and mesmerizing extraterrestrial scenery."

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