Ceres' Bright Spots Are Constantly Changing

A leopard can't change its spots, but apparently a dwarf planet can

Ceres' Bright Spots

Ceres' Bright Spots

They're watching you...NASA

On a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, a couple of big bright spots shine like eyes set too close together. They're among the most intriguing findings from the Dawn spacecraft, which began orbiting Ceres in 2015.

Ceres' bright spots are mysterious in nature, but they might be made of ice and salt. And in a paper published today, scientists were surprised to find that the spots seem to be constantly changing.

A telescope in Chile caught the spots getting brighter during the daytime, implying that whatever makes up the shiny region is vaporizing in the sun's heat. The resulting plumes reflect more sunlight. The spots' brightness also varies from day to day.

The team that discovered the variations is hoping to confirm the findings with other instruments. Meanwhile, the mystery of Ceres' bright spots only deepens.

A closeup of the bright spots in Ceres' Occator crater

A closeup of the bright spots in Ceres' Occator crater

With a resolution of about 450 feet per pixel, this new view of Ceres is composed of two images—one that captures the detail of the bright spots, and one that captures the background surface.NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA