Mysterious White Spots on Ceres Are Probably Salt

Posted on October 1, 2015

Color-coded topgraphic Occator crater on Ceres map

New images of the dwarf planet Ceres taken by NASA's Dawn spaceraft have been revealed. The image above is a color-coded topographic map of Occator crater on Ceres. The crater is home to the brightest spots on Ceres. These spots have become known as the mysterious white spots.

NASA researchers suspect that the white spots are most likely salt. However, they are not 100% sure and they do not know what type of salt this would be. You can find a hi-rest version of the color-coded Occator crater map here on nasa.gov.

BBC News reports that the mission's principal investigator Chris Russell from UCLA said at the European Planetary Science Congress, "We haven't solved the source of the white material. We think that it's salt that has somehow made its way to the surface. We're measuring the contours, trying to understand what the surface variations in that crater are telling us."

The Dawn team also released the topographical view of a tall conical mountain on Ceres below. A larger image can be found here. Another topographic Ceres map with features was released and can be found here.

Color topographic map of conical mountain on Ceres


Dawn remains in orbit around Ceres. It will make its closest approach at an altitude of 375 kilometers (230 miles) in October.

Crater Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Mountain Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI