From the moment they were discovered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, the two bright spots on Ceres have fascinated scientists and amateur astronomers across the world. What are they and why are they there? Scientists believed that once Dawn reached orbit they would be able to learn more about these two mysterious spots, but even now they remain a mystery. NASA has made an unusual move by inviting the public to weigh in on what they believe is the nature of these two bright spots.
Speculation began as soon as they were discovered but NASA declined to offer any official explanation although some scientists did offer several suggestions. Some said the lights could be frozen pools of ice at the bottom of a crater acting as a reflective surface while others thought it could be due to "volcanic-like" activity or salt deposits.
Conspiracy theorists also contributed their own suggestions. UFO and alien enthusiasts said the lights could be evidence of an alien civilization on the dwarf planet. They scoffed at the idea that the lights were from volcanoes, saying that volcanoes would not give off white light but instead a red and orange light. Scientists, however, pointed out that cryovolcanoes that form on icy asteroids could actually give off the type of light found in the bright spots on Ceres.
UFO Sighting Daily's Scott Waring said they were either electric lights or massive reflectors on a pair of massive doors leading to an underground alien space station. He believes the lights are beacons to guide alien space ships approaching the entrance to an underground station.
Other conspiracy theorists believe it is simply a method used by aliens that were trying to establish contact with other civilizations.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has launched a website that will allow visitors to contribut their guesses as to what these spots actually are.
"Can you guess what's creating those unusual bright spots on Ceres? On March 6, NASA's Dawn spacecraft began orbiting Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Even before the spacecraft arrived at the dwarf planet, images revealed mysterious bright spots that captivated scientists and observers alike. Until Dawn gets a closer look over the next few months, it's anyone's guess what those spots could be. So, go ahead! Cast your vote."
Researchers had hoped that once Dawn moved closer it would uncover the mystery of these spots, but so far the truth has remained out of reach. Dawn snapped new images from a distance of about 14,000 miles on April 14, but even at this improved resolution it wasn't enough. The latest images come from a distance of 8,500 miles and the probe will move even closer on May 9 as scientists hope to uncover the truth related to these bright spots on an otherwise cold rock floating through space.