The dwarf planet Ceres ̵1; as long as it is believed to be a barren space rock – is an oceanic world with seawater reservoirs beneath its surface, the results of a major exploration mission showed on Monday.
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, enabling the NASA Dawn spacecraft to capture high-resolution images of its surface.
Now a team of scientists from the United States and Europe have analyzed images transmitted by the orbiter, captured about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the asteroid.
They focused on the 20-year-old Oktator crater and determined that there is a “wide reservoir” of brine beneath its surface.
Some studies published Monday in journals Natural Astronomy, Natural geosciences and Nature communications also sheds further light on the dwarf planet, which was discovered by the Italian polymath Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801.
Using infrared images, a team discovered the presence of composite hydrohalite – a common material in sea ice, but which until now had never been observed from Earth.
Maria Cristina De Sanctis, from the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome said hydrohalite was a clear sign that Ceres’ used to have sea water.
“We can now say that Ceres is a kind of oceanic world, such as some of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter,” she told AFP.
The team said the salt deposits looked like they had built up within the last two million years – the blink of an eye in time in space.
This suggests that brine may still be contagious from inside the planet, something De Sanctis said could have profound implications for future studies.
“The material found in Ceres is extremely important in terms of astrobiology,” she said.
“We know these minerals are all essential to the emergence of life.”
Writing in an accompanying comment article, Julie Castillo-Rogez, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, said the discovery of hydrohalite was a “smoking weapon” for continuous water activity.
“This material is unstable on the surface of Ceres, and so it should have been placed very recently,” she said.
In a separate paper, U.S.-based researchers analyzed images of the Octator crater and discovered that its hills and hills may have formed when water expelled from the impact of a frozen meteor on the surface.
The authors said their findings showed that such water-freezing processes “extend beyond Earth and Mars, and have been active in Ceres in the recent geological past”.
The mysterious dwarf planet Ceres is getting ready for the spotlight
CA Raymond et al. Mobilization influenced by deep crustal ribs on the dwarf planet Ceres, Natural Astronomy (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-020-1168-2
A. Nathues et al. Recent cryovolcanic activity in the Ocator crater in Ceres, Natural Astronomy (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-020-1146-8
RS Park et al. Evidence of Ceres non-uniform crust from Dawn high-resolution gravity data, Natural Astronomy (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-020-1019-1
MC De Sanctis et al. Fresh placement of hydrated sodium chloride in Ceres from saline adhesives, Natural Astronomy (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-020-1138-8
BE Schmidt et al. Cryo-hydrological formation after the impact of the formation of tumuli and small hills in the crater of Ceres’s Occator, Natural geosciences (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41561-020-0581-6
© 2020 AFP
citation: The dwarf planet Ceres is an oceanic world: study (2020, August 10) taken August 10, 2020 by https://phys.org/news/2020-08-dwarf-planet-ceres-ocean-world.html
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