Ceres’ mysterious bright spots have multiplied. The latest images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft reveal the big bright spots on Ceres are made up of many smaller ones.

Dawn captured the images in the animated GIF below on May 3 and 4. At the time, the spacecraft was 8,400 miles away from Ceres.

Ceres bright spot animation

What are these bright white spots? Scientists don’t know for sure. The leading candidate is ice.

“Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,” said Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission.

Dawn’s mission timeline

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has completed its first mapping orbit – a 15-day orbit around the dwarf planet. On May 9, the spacecraft began its descent to its second orbit – which it will enter on June 6. This is when we should know for sure what these bright spots are.

Starting June 6, Dawn will circle Ceres every three days. The quality of images is expected to jump big time as Ceres orbits at an altitude of 2,700 miles. This phase of the mission is dubbed Dawn’s survey orbit. Dawn will meticulously map Ceres’ surface and determine if the dwarf planet is active.

More Ceres Images

Everyone’s focus is on the bright spots on Ceres, but Dawn has been busy snapping other images.

The images below were captured between April 24 – 26.

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You can keep tabs on Dawn’s mission at its official page.

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