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Photos of the white spots within the 57-mile-wide on Ceres photographed on May 3 and 4 by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA / montage by Tom Ruen

Ceres’ White Spots Multiply in Latest Dawn Photos

11 May , 2015

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We don’t know exactly what those mysterious white spots on Ceres are yet, but we’re getting closer to an explanation. Literally. The latest images from the Dawn spacecraft taken a mere 8,400 miles from the dwarf planet Ceres reveal that the pair of  spots are comprised of even more spots. 

“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,” said Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission from the University of California, Los Angeles.

This animation shows a sequence of images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 4, 2015, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers), in its RC3 mapping orbit. The image resolution is 0.8 mile (1.3 kilometers) per pixel. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

This animation shows a sequence of images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 4, 2015, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 km), in its RC3 or science mapping orbit. The image resolution is 0.8 mile (1.3 km) per pixel. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Dawn recently concluded its first science orbit, making a 15-day full circle around Ceres while gathering data with its suite of science instruments. This past Saturday, May 9, its ion engine fired once again to lower the spacecraft to its second science orbit which it will enter on June 6. On that date, the probe will hover just 2,700 miles (4,400 km) above the dwarf planet and begin a comprehensive mapping of the surface. Scientists also hope the bird’s eye view will reveal clues of ongoing geological activity.


Check out this great video compiled from Dawn’s still frames of Ceres by Tom Ruen. Almost feels like you’re there.

There’s no doubt a lot’s been happening on Ceres. One look at all those cracks hint at either impact-related stresses some kind of crustal expansion. Geological processes may still make this little world rock and roll.

In this uncropped single frame, not only are multiple white spots visible but also long, parallel cracks or troughs in Ceres' surface. Credit:

In this uncropped single frame, not only are multiple white spots visible but also long, roughly parallel cracks or troughs in Ceres’ surface. Are they impact-related or caused by some other stress? Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Fortunately, we won’t have to wait till next month for more photos. NASA plans to pause the probe twice on the way down to shoot and send fresh images.

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Steven
Member
Steven
May 11, 2015 8:02 PM

Interestingly in that bottom picture there is a very dark spot on the right side and what appears to be a very raised area on the farthest right.

gopher65
Member
gopher65
May 11, 2015 8:47 PM

Could be a chasm of the type we have already seen on Mars and Luna. A collapse of ancient underground lava tubes, or something similar with a different fluid (like water).

Ps8
Member
Ps8
May 12, 2015 9:14 AM

I wondered about that dark spot too, but it may well turn out to be just a photographic “artifact”. I say this because there appear to be two other artifacts in first image of 22 frames, line 3, frames 2 and 4. There too you can see a small dark ring, and then a dark spot, with nothing in the neighboring frames to indicate that they are growing or fading in appearance, as other features do. In all three cases, more pictures will prove them to be either artifacts, or very interesting realities. Can’t wait to see which they prove to be.

BlackWolfStanding
Member
BlackWolfStanding
May 11, 2015 8:50 PM

What I would expect to see is pressure ridges from when this dwarf planet was first formed or from major collisions is has had since. What would surprise me is any cracks from internal heat sources or weather not associated with impacts.

Aqua4U
Member
May 11, 2015 9:04 PM

Thanks for the update Bob. Talk about an enigma wrapped in a mystery! At least until the spacecraft gets a bit closer? Can’t wait!

UFOsMOTHER
Member
UFOsMOTHER
May 11, 2015 9:36 PM

Nice update Bob, The crack runs just above the crater with the white dots all the way across to the horizon and looks like the San Andreas Fault line as seen from the air, The white reflective objects are probably ice but wouldn’t it be great if the next closer images show an Alien Mining Complex lol ….smile

sangos
Member
sangos
May 13, 2015 9:08 AM

Unlikely place to setup shop unless the only unobtanium is on Ceres.

kwestdjonmaarc
Member
kwestdjonmaarc
May 11, 2015 9:46 PM

its a migratory interplanetary bioluminescent space goo! ……from Maarrrrsss!!!

kwestdjonmaarc
Member
kwestdjonmaarc
May 11, 2015 9:48 PM

feeding on helium 3 and straight up platinum.

Pete
Member
Pete
May 11, 2015 11:43 PM

Amazing amazing amazing!
Thank you Bob for great coverage of a WHOLE NEW THING!
(Ya think?)
One wonders what New Horizons will reveal on its journey.

Jeffrey Boerst
Member
May 12, 2015 10:26 AM

Dick C. Hoagland MUST be having a field day with this……………. (groan)

kwestdjonmaarc
Member
kwestdjonmaarc
May 12, 2015 10:48 AM

lulz wink

Jaffysaur
Member
May 12, 2015 9:45 PM

This is a picture of UFO’s Partying. If they get pissed were screwed. Omg the end is near! :O

NilsO
Member
NilsO
May 13, 2015 2:10 AM
I had a posting on earthsky.org (http://earthsky.org/space/closest-look-yet-at-ceres-bright-spots). Unfortunately, there was a swarm of moron posters bombing the site. I therefore repeat the posting here, as no one is going to read all the crap comments on earthsky.org: In the montage, the white spots are too overexposed to make out much detail. I really hope NASA adjusts the shutter speed next time. But in the first and last images (corresponding to sunrise/sunset), it appears the central white spot is a mountain, with the sun shining on the mountain top. My theory: The impact crater is similar to Tycho crater on the moon, with a central mountain peak formed by the impact. Moreover, the impact would have created deep cracks… Read more »
BCstargazer
Member
BCstargazer
May 13, 2015 9:08 AM

good hypothesis but it was pretty much a waste to post it on earthsky, where fb commenters still have the deep “belief” and intense “feeling” that nibiru is going to appear out of nowhere with little or no warning (as all amateur astronomers are incapable of detecting it or are part of the nasa conspiracy) and despite the laws of physics and orbital mechanics, still has the velocity of a Sol orbiting object.
On the subject of your claim to priority, international law is pretty clear about that since the “dibs” moments of comet Schoemaker-Levy 9 and comet Hale-Bopp.
So, in conclusion, dibs wink

QubitsToy
Member
QubitsToy
May 17, 2015 8:16 PM

Please don’t post my comment with those private dropbox links. I have learned that dropbox can be compromised. I have a lot of current work files on that web site. I just wanted to share that with you.

QubitsToy
Member
QubitsToy
May 17, 2015 8:16 PM

Please don’t post my comment with those private dropbox links. I have learned that dropbox can be compromised. I have a lot of current work files on that web site. I just wanted to share that with you.

QubitsToy
Member
QubitsToy
May 19, 2015 10:13 AM

Many people (myself included) have noticed the dark Torus, Triangle and Cigar shape that appear in many zoomed up images from the RC3 NASA animation. If you analyze the entire GIF you will find that those shapes stay in perfect relationship to each other in every frame. Also the same shapes can be seen in photos of Vesta. So they must be artifacts introduced during stitching or debris on the lens of Dawn. Here is an animation highlighting the effect.

wpDiscuz