NASA scientists expect Vesta and Ceres to reveal good detail about the formation of planets in the Solar System. Dr Carol Raymond of the JPL explains,
“Both Ceres and Vesta, we believe, are proto-planets. They were on their way to forming larger planetary embryos and they were the type of object that merged to form the terrestrial planets.”
“But these two stopped before they reached that evolutionary stage, and so they are essentially these intact ‘time capsules’ from the very beginning of our Solar System; and that’s really the motivation for why Dawn is going there to explore them in detail.”
Scientists speculate that at its core, Ceres may contain water and ice and the the ‘bright lights’ on the surface may have occurred after Ceres, a dwarf planet without atmosphere, was struck by an object that released ice onto the planet’s airless surface, thus leaving highly reflective salts behind. Those clusters of highly reflective salts would appear as bright spots on the planet.