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Dawn spies pyramid on Ceres, captures closeup of bright spots

Dawn is mapping Ceres from an orbital altitude of 2,700 miles.

By Brooks Hays
New Ceres images captured by Dawn show a pyramid-like mountain peak, pictured upper right. Photo by NASA/JPL
New Ceres images captured by Dawn show a pyramid-like mountain peak, pictured upper right. Photo by NASA/JPL

PASADENA, Calif., June 22 (UPI) -- NASA's Dawn probe has returned a number of new and interesting images of the dwarf planet Ceres, including new closeups of the mysterious bright spots.

While the new images don't offer a firm explanation for the bright spots, they have revealed a new feature -- a pyramid-like mountain peak rising from Ceres' flat surface.

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"The surface of Ceres has revealed many interesting and unique features," Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for the Dawn mission, said in a press release. "For example, icy moons in the outer solar system have craters with central pits, but on Ceres central pits in large craters are much more common."

An intriguing pyramid mountain can be added to the list. The pyramid's steep slopes rise some three miles from the planet's relatively flat surface.

"These and other features will allow us to understand the inner structure of Ceres that we cannot sense directly, " Raymond added.

Dawn is mapping Ceres from an orbital altitude of 2,700 miles. Its latest survey efforts revealed more closeups of the dwarf planet's bright spots. The images reveal the second bright spot to actually be a scattering of smaller bright spots, but there's still no consensus explanation.

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Ice and salt remain the two most likely sources for the sparkling reflection, but scientists are considering other possibilities.

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