NASA

Two Mysterious Lights Appear On Dwarf Planet NASA Is Landing On

The latest photos taken by NASA's Dawn probe reveal two white lights coming from the dwarf planet Ceres.

Their origin is currently unknown and nothing like this has ever been spotted in the solar system.

Dawn's deputy principal investigator, Carol Raymond, told NBC News,

Suffice it to say that these spots were extremely surprising to the team.

The spots only appear during the day on the 590-mile-wide Ceres when it reflects light from the sun.

According to NBC News, one of the most plausible causes seems to be ice that is exposed to sunlight due to a collision that occurred on the dwarf planet.

The pictures were taken on Feb. 19 from nearly 29,000 miles away.

More detailed images are expected to be produced once the refrigerator-sized Dawn enters the dwarf planet's orbit on March 6.

Located in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres is being studied primarily to determine the cause of water vapor emissions detected in 2012, Yahoo! news reports.

A likely candidate is an ocean that scientists believe has completely frozen over and is now covered by layers of rock and dust.

The presence of water, however, suggests that Ceres could have been capable of sustaining life at one point during its 4.5 billion years in existence.

Raymond said,

We do expect that it had astrobiological potential.

Dawn will make its first scientific observations about Ceres in April when it reaches a distance of 25,000 miles, which is 10 times closer than the moon is to the Earth.

At the end of the journey, Dawn will get just 235 miles from Ceres' surface.

This is just slightly less than the distance between the Earth and the International Space Station.

Citations: Dawn Probe Closes In for Mystery Tour of Dwarf Planet Ceres (NBC News), Bright lights on dwarf planet perplex NASA as probe nears (Yahoo News)