What the? The bright spot on Ceres, the subject of much speculation, apparently has a smaller “companion” spot. Both glow brightly from inside a good-sized crater on the dwarf planet. The larger looks like a central peak or spot on a peak.
Fascinating to look at, but the Dawn space probe is still too far away to give us the resolution we need to answer our questions. But watch out. The Internet may soon hum with talk of aliens, mirrors and lasers. I mean, come on, it just looks weird. The contrast between the rest of the asteroid and the spots is remarkable.
The pseudoscience-makers better hurry though. Dawn is fewer than 29,000 miles (46,000 km) away and closing fast. In little more than a week on March 6, the probe will be captured by Ceres gravity and begin a slow dance lasting some 6 weeks settling into a comfortable polar orbit around this intriguing world. That’s when even clearer pictures of the phantom lights will stream their way to Earth. They’re expected to have 100x the resolution of the images seen here.
Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, thinks it’s possible that the spots may point to a volcano-like origin. That’s just an educated guess at this point. Hang on to your hats – I suspect Ceres will be full of surprises.