NASA's getting closer to those mystery bright spots on Ceres

Earlier this year, NASA's Dawn spacecraft returned an image of the dwarf planet Ceres showing, among other things, an unusually bright spot. NASA received and published more images of this bright spot — which turned out to be multiple spots — as the spacecraft grew nearer. We've once again been graced with another image, this one taken so closely to the mystery spots that we clearly see big and small jagged specks of gleaming light.

The bright spots are contained in the Occator crater, says NASA, and this latest picture lends the best-so-far look at what they might contain. In the image you see above, each pixel represents 450ft., and shows both small bright spots and one central spot on the crater's floor. The image is a composite, combining one image that exposes the bright spots, and another that exposes the darker surrounding landscape.

To give viewers a better idea of what they're looking at, NASA also put together a brief animation using captured images that demonstrate the crater's topography. Another uses colors to further demonstrate the various heights of surrounding structures.

NASA didn't offer any speculation about what the bright spots may be this time around, though it has been suggested that ice could be one cause. This isn't the only bright area spotted on the dwarf planet, however — recently NASA released an image showing a large pyramid-like mountain that includes one very shiny side.

You can see a higher resolution version of the image here. Check out the timeline below for the latest Ceres news!