Ceres, the small dwarf planet with a distinctiveness crisis, continues to stun and confuse astronomers. When NASA's Dawn probe was still about 29,000 miles (46,000 km) away, it sent back snaps of two white spots on its surface that provoked many theories guessing about what they could be. Ice deposits? Volcanos? Researchers would have to wait for Dawn to get nearer in order to get a better look. Dawn's next set of pictures of Ceres--this time while it was rotated away from the sun--seemed to propose these white spots were jets of ice shooting out of the planet's subsurface. On March 6, Dawn crossed the threshold into orbit around Ceres. Researchers expected the data it transferred would be windows into the dwarf planet's chemical and physical composition.
But, the mystery only deepened. Heat marks of what has since been termed "Spot 1" specify that it's a cold area of the surface, while the other spot--now called "Spot 5"—appears to be a warm area. The differing temperatures means it's improbable they're the same geological occurrence. Present theories range from the spots being a signal of ice to some compound of water that's been absorbed by nearby minerals. As Dawn continues to observe the dwarf planet, researchers are assured they'll explain this astronomical mystery soon. Either way, I'll keep you updated here. Learn more in the video below: