The Ceres has been an intriguing celestial body and as NASA’s Dawn continues its study, the spacecraft has relayed back a number of images of the Occator Crater, which contains the brightest area of Ceres.

By stitching the images together, NASA has created a stunning animation revealing the brightest area on Ceres from a new perspective. The images were taken on April 29 when the spacecraft was in a position exactly between the sun and Ceres’ surface. The spacecraft didn’t find itself in such a position by accident as NASA says that mission specialists had carefully maneuvered Dawn into a special orbit so that the spacecraft could view Occator Crater from this perspective.

The new images reveal the opposition images with contrast enhanced to highlight brightness differences. The bright spots of Occator stand out particularly well on an otherwise relatively bland surface. Dawn took these images from an altitude of about 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers).

To correctly predict when Ceres would appear brighter from this opposition configuration, mission team used data from ground-based telescopes and spacecrafts that previously viewed planetary bodies at opposition. According to the space agency, the increase in brightness of Ceres relates the size of the grains of material on the surface, as well as the porosity of those materials. The science motivation for performing these observations is further explained in the March issue of the Dawn Journal blog.

Dawn’s observations of Ceres during its more than two years there cover a broader range of illumination angles than almost any body in the solar system. This provides scientists with an opportunity to gain new insights into the surface properties. They are currently analyzing the new data.

The new observations and images were largely unaffected by the loss of function of Dawn’s third reaction wheel. The spacecraft is healthy and orients itself using its hydrazine thrusters.