We're almost there! On March 6, NASA's Dawn spacecraft should get pulled into a cozy orbit with Ceres, the dwarf planet that reigns as king of our solar system's asteroid belt. As always, the images released by NASA are the best, clearest pictures of Ceres yet.
This new batch was taken from about 29,000 miles away, so we're really starting to see the topography of the 590-mile-wide planet. But there's still no word on what that mysterious white spot is. In fact, the mystery has multiplied: Now there are two of them.
In previous images, that crater the bright specks are located in seemed like one very defined, very round white speck. Now we can see that the spots -- which are so reflective that they've been showing up despite their tiny size -- are actually multiple reflective objects nestled in the same basin.
"The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres. This is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us," Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, said in a statement.
But it's still too soon to tell just what these bright spots are. Mission scientists believe that the pairing of two spots within a basin may suggest some kind of volcanic origin, but that's pure speculation at this point.
On March 6, Dawn will use its ion propulsion system to swoop into the dwarf planet's orbit. Then scientists will have 16 months of measurements and observations to help them crack the planet's mysteries.