Ceres bright spots caused by unknown "highly reflective material"

Back in February, NASA's Dawn spacecraft snapped some nearer pictures of the dwarf planet Ceres than previously obtained, and in them we saw a mystery: a couple of very bright spots on the surface. The cause of the spots was — and still is — unknown, but as the spacecraft draws closer to the planet it has been able to take increasingly clearer images. The latest show the same two bright spots are still there, only now they look more like they're made of a bunch of smaller reflective patches.

The bright spots are more clear in the latest image, featured above, showing that smaller bright dots are clustered together in what appear to be two large, fairly well contained batches. The image shows the bright patches as seen from about 13,600km from Ceres' surface.

The bright spots remain a mystery — NASA researchers don't know what's causing them, with the exception of new data showing that the brightness is the sun's light being reflected by some sort of "highly reflective material".

The material might just be clusters of ice that are reflecting the sunlight, but that's not yet known. As the Dawn spacecraft grows nearer, researchers will get a better look at the bright spots — and the planet's surface in general — and will be able to determine what, exactly, is causing it all.