NASA's closest-ever Ceres photos reveal more odd shapes

The dwarf planet is pretty, but still mysterious.

NASA's ever-closer inspection of Ceres may have answered some questions, but not all of them... if anything, it might raise a few more. The agency has published its closest-ever photos (240 miles above the surface) of the dwarf planet, and they're revealing details that would have been hard to imagine from further away. Take the crater you see above, for example. It's full of strange, crease-like slopes that researchers believe are the result of collapses while the crater formed. Other snapshots show cracks, probably formed by melting from impacts, and the material (likely salt) that produces Ceres' signature bright spots.

If the new snapshots don't answer every riddle about Ceres, that's okay for now. The Dawn spacecraft taking these photos will stay at this low altitude not only throughout its mission (which ends June 30th), but "indefinitely" after that. So long as Dawn hangs around, there's a chance of getting better answers.

[Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA]

Kupalo Crater on Ceres