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Space & Astronomy

Water ice found on the dwarf planet Ceres

December 16, 2016 | Comment icon 3 comments

Ceres is definitely more than meets the eye. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Two new studies have revealed that the dwarf planet Ceres is home to significant quantities of water ice.
The largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres has been the subject of much intrigue recently thanks to its mysterious bright spots and anomalous surface features.

Now scientists believe that they have identified water ice trapped within permanently shadowed craters on its surface - regions that can reach temperatures below -260 degrees Fahrenheit.

"These studies support the idea that ice separated from rock early in Ceres' history," said Dawn project scientist Carol Raymond. "This separation formed an ice-rich crustal layer, and that ice has remained near the surface over the history of the solar system."
The discovery is particularly interesting because Ceres is much closer to the Sun than Europa, Enceladus and other icy worlds where subterranean liquid water oceans are thought to exist.

Liquid water would have also been needed on Ceres to produce the minerals we see on its surface.

"This combination of water and rock, are conclusive for a habitable environment, but we can only look for the chemical fingerprints on the surface, and we have evidence to say that the presence of the subsurface ocean was very likely," said Raymond.

"Ceres is a really interesting object, equivalent to Europa or Enceladus in terms of its habitability potential. By finding bodies that were water-rich in the distant past, we can discover clues as to where life may have existed in the early solar system."

Source: Independent | Comments (3)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Eldorado 6 years ago
Dwarfs only need small amounts?
Comment icon #2 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
Sounds like the writers for SyFy's "The Expanse" knew something.  In that show the Earth is mining ice as a water source on Ceres and the surrounding bodies.
Comment icon #3 Posted by brlesq1 6 years ago
Interesting...I attended a talk not too long ago where one of the topics was mining on asteroids. Or, in this case, a dwarf planet.

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