Could dwarf planet Ceres be watching us watching it? As NASA's Dawn spacecraft approaches the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, it seems to be lighting up. Not long after images of Ceres revealed a strange reflective spot, another dimmer one came into view in the latest NASA images, giving the appearance of a spooky pair of eyes peering back at Dawn.
So what's going on here? Metallic mineral deposits? The local ice skating rink on an improbably shiny frozen lake in the bottom of a huge crater? A giant Ceresian mirror or solar farm?
The answer is...we have no idea.
"Ceres' bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin. This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations," said UCLA's Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, in a statement Wednesday.
As Dawn gets closer, the images sent back of Ceres become more clear and, frankly, more weird. The above image with the two bright spots was taken from about 29,000 miles from the surface of the dwarf planet. Dawn will continue its approach until March 6, when it will enter orbit around Ceres to get better views for a period of 16 months.
In the coming months, those strange bright spots should come more into focus, as should the underlying nature of Ceres, which many believe may be hidingthan we have here on Earth.