See Ceres' bright spot up close in latest NASA space photo

Remember the formerly mysterious bright spots on Ceres that intrigued researchers and the Internet alike? The space agency has released a new photograph shot by the Dawn spacecraft, and in it we get a clear, up-close look at one of these bright spots and the crater in which it is located. The spot isn't very shiny and bright in this photo; rather, we see just how rough the terrain in this area is.

The image was taken by the Dawn spacecraft on October 16 during its 5th orbit, says NASA. In it we get a 'dramatic new view' of the bright spot and its position within the Occator Crater. This is the location of the brightest spots on Ceres, and it measures a massive 57 miles in width with a depth of 2.5 miles. Says the space agency, this crater shows signs of 'recent geologic activity.'

Ceres' bright mystery spots are (probably) salt

As NASA previously guessed, all signs are pointing toward salt as the bright spots' cause, with the salt itself resulting from briny liquid. That liquid rose up from beneath the crater, where it then froze and was slowly turned into vapor — think of it like evaporating salt water and having a layer of salt left behind. You can download the photo in various high resolutions here.

According to NASA, the presence of that salty liquid may have been triggered millions of years ago by the impact that created the massive crater. This likely isn't the end of the Ceres photos we'll see, as the Dawn spacecraft is beginning its sixth orbit around the dwarf planet. This time around, the spacecraft will be more than 4,500 miles from Ceres, and it will be tasked with refining data it has already gathered from past orbits.