NASA's Dawn Probe Focuses on a Different Mystery Spot on Ceres

by Alan Boyle /  / Updated 

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Now here's a spot of a different color: The latest picture released by the science team for NASA's Dawn mission shows a bright patch on the dwarf planet Ceres that's distinct from the eerie "alien headlights" seen in other imagery.

The best-known collection of bright spots on Ceres is known as "Spot 5," and the best guess is that those spots are made of ice deposits — although scientists haven't completely ruled out the possibility that they're made of salt or some other light-colored material.

Related: Ceres' White Spots Shine in New Pic

The picture released on Tuesday focuses on another bright area called Spot 1. The image was captured on June 6 from an altitude of 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers).

Dawn's scientists say Spot 1 is as much a mystery as the more famous Spot 5:

The picture sparked a fair amount of discussion on Twitter, focusing on what appears to be a bright ray pattern fanning out from Spot 1's crater. Could the bright stuff be subsurface water ice that was exposed and blasted away by a cosmic impact? Stay tuned for the answer: Dawn is sure to be taking an even closer look at Spot 1, Spot 5 and Ceres' other mysteries in the months ahead.

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