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Friday, February 27, 2015

Scientists puzzled by 'bright spots' on surface of dwarf planet Ceres

Two strange reflective patches spotted on Ceres.
Image: NASA, JPL

Mashable | Feb 26, 2015 | Chris Taylor

A dwarf planet is shining two bright lights at a NASA spacecraft right now, and our smartest scientists are unsure what they are.

As bizarre as that sentence sounds, that's the situation with Ceres — the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, officially designated as a dwarf planet (the same category as Pluto).

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is approaching Ceres ahead of a March 6 rendezvous. The picture above was taken February 19, from a distance of just under 29,000 miles, and shows two very shiny areas on the same basin on Ceres' surface.

Previous Dawn images from further away showed a single light on Ceres, which was just as mysterious. Then, to the amazement of every astronomy geek, the one light turned out to be two — reflecting roughly 40% of the light hitting them.

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