Returned from the lowest cruising altitude over the dwarf planet yet, these shots of Ceres are incredibly detailed—and could even show us some surprises.
As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft and its cameras approach Ceres, photos are getting more revealing. A few weeks back, a closer look showed that those mysterious bright spots that we’ve been seeing were probably made of salt. Now, the cameras have gotten to the lowest point they’re ever going to reach: 240 miles above the surface.
Researchers have already noted heavy cratering and cracking, which could be impact-marks. But another intriguing suggestion has popped up: earthquake stresses. The closer pictures may also be useful for coming up with more ideas about what’s forming the surface of Ceres.
Here’s the full set of shots—including one they turned into a 3-D image.