• Ceres' lonely mountain, Ahuna Mons, is seen in this simulated perspective viewMap shows locations of bright material on dwarf planet CeresBright areas of Occator Crater Oxo Crater is unique because of the relatively largeHaulani Crater in Enhanced Color The bright areas of Occator Crater -- Cerealia Facula in the center and Vinalia Faculae to the side -- are examples of bright material found on crater floors on Ceres. This is a simulated perspective view.

JPL News: Bright Areas on Ceres Suggest Geologic Activity

If you could fly aboard NASA's Dawn spacecraft, the surface of dwarf planet Ceres would generally look quite dark, but with notable exceptions. These exceptions are the hundreds of bright areas that stand out in images Dawn has returned. Now, scientists have a better sense of how these reflective areas formed and changed over time -- processes indicative of an active, evolving world.

"The mysterious bright spots on Ceres, which have captivated both the Dawn science team and the public, reveal evidence of Ceres' past subsurface ocean, and indicate that, far from being a dead world, Ceres is surprisingly active. Geological processes created these bright areas and may still be changing the face of Ceres today," said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Raymond and colleagues presented the latest results about the bright areas at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans on Tuesday, Dec. 12. Their findings were also published in the journal Icarus in a new study led by Nathan Stein, a doctoral researcher at Caltech.

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