The bright spots seen on dwarf planet Ceres have come back into view from the Dawn spacecraft but remain as mysterious as ever.
NASA lost sight of the enigmatic features on Ceres early in March, after the ion propulsion guided probe entered its initial orbit around the largest of the thousands of objects in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
That happened because Ceres was rotating on its axis below Dawn’s cameras in almost the same time it completed those early orbits, and this had the coincidental effect of keeping them over the night side of the dwarf planet, which has a diameter of only about 950 kilometres, or little more than the distance between Melbourne and Sydney.
Now that Dawn has gradually lowered its orbit more of the daylight side of Ceres has become visible and the image, top of page, just released by NASA, shows the bright spots once again in a crater on the right hand side of frame.
All that can be surmised so far about the spots is that they appear to be vents or eruptions of a gas or cloud of particles of unknown composition, and even that interpretation might prove wrong as the spacecraft swoops lower over Ceres in coming weeks and months.
More images, more information, and even a short video of the spots rotating into view, can be found here.