That pyramid shaped protrusion from the side of micro planet Ceres has now been seen from another closer angle, and … it is as strange and unexplained as ever.
From the perspective of this new image from NASA probe Dawn the pyramid shaped object looks more like an elongated mountain comprising lighter coloured material which rises about 5000 metres from the terrain immediately in front of it.
The sight line appears to be from the opposite direction to the image in which it was discovered last month.
While the major bright spots first seen from months ago as Dawn closed in on 960 kilometres diameter Ceres are not shown in this view, even more of them are now apparent on its dark surface. Ceres is in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter but is far larger than any of those thousands of bodies.
As Dawn, an ion engine propelled craft, gradually lowers itself toward Ceres, these bright spots are resolving themselves into collections of tightly spaced smaller dots, but whether they are made of ices or salts, or maybe both seems far from being resolved.
Dawn is now down to its last year of hydrazine in its tanks, which is essential for maintaining a controlled orbit around Ceres and keeping its communications antenna locked on earth. It isn’t clear yet whether NASA will sacrifice some of its remaining time as a live probe in order to spend more fuel to fly risky close up passes of Ceres’ unexplained features.