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.