ALIENS on CERES? Nope – it's just dwarf's tucked away MOIST BITS

Mysterious bright spots were probably ice after all

The presence of an alien base on Ceres has seemingly been ruled out by NASA, which has released an improved image of mysterious bright spots on the asteroid belt dwarf planet.

The Dawn spacecraft first spied the features in the Occator crater back in June, when they appeared as glowing masses.

Occator crater

The mystery of the Occator crater as seen back in June

As we put it at the time, the sighting provoked "sometimes batshit speculation of alien spaceports".

However, NASA has now used two 140 metres per pixel images obtained by Dawn from a lower orbital height of 1,470km to create a exposure-adjusted composite (big version here).

The new adjusted composite view of the Occator crater. Pic: NASA

The picture appears to support the idea that the bright areas are "ice left over from an impacting body, or that has formed from moistness within Ceres".

Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer, enthused: "Dawn has transformed what was so recently a few bright dots into a complex and beautiful, gleaming landscape. Soon, the scientific analysis will reveal the geological and chemical nature of this mysterious and mesmerizing extraterrestrial scenery."

While you're waiting for the final word on just what Ceres' illuminating skin condition actually is, enjoy this fly-around of the Occator crater, assembled from other Dawn images:

Youtube Video

The spacecraft has now completed "two 11-day cycles of mapping the surface of Ceres from its current altitude", and kicked off a third run yesterday.

NASA explained: "Dawn will map all of Ceres six times over the next two months. Each cycle consists of 14 orbits. By imaging Ceres at a slightly different angle in each mapping cycle, Dawn scientists will be able to assemble stereo views and construct 3-D maps." ®

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