The clearest photos yet of dwarf planet Ceres have been sent back by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, and the mysterious white spots are as bright as ever and more defined than before. But that doesn't mean scientists know what they are. 

"Reflection from ice is the leading candidate in my mind," Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, said in a NASA statement. "But the team continues to consider alternate possibilities, such as salt. With closer views from the new orbit and multiple view angles, we soon will be better able to determine the nature of this enigmatic phenomenon." 

The new shots were taken from about 2,700 miles away on June 6, during the probe's second mapping orbit. Dawn will make a few more passes at this distance (each orbit takes about three Earth days), then advance (or descend, depending on your frame of reference) to 900 miles from Ceres sometime in August. The improved resolution of photos, temperature and geographic data will hopefully give scientists the boost they need to solve the mystery of the white spots and make further theories about this ancient object residing in our solar system.


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