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Space & Astronomy

Dwarf planet Ceres turns out to be ocean world

By T.K. Randall
August 12, 2020 · Comment icon 12 comments

NASA's Dawn spacecraft visited Ceres back in 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Scientists have determined that Ceres, like Europa and Enceladus, is home to an ocean of liquid water.
Situated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres is a relatively small world measuring a mere 580 miles in diameter and is the only asteroid belt object rounded by its own gravity.

It was visited back in March 2015 by NASA's Dawn spacecraft which discovered, among other things, the presence of organic molecules - the building blocks from which all life is based.

Now, five years on, it turns out that Ceres is an even more promising candidate for life than previously believed thanks to the discovery that it is also home to a subterranean ocean of salty water.

This places it among the most promising places to look for evidence of extraterrestrial life in our solar system alongside Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa.
The discovery was made by researchers from the United States and Europe who analyzed high resolution images of the surface of Ceres to determine that there was in fact an "extensive reservoir" of brine beneath the surface of the 20-million-year-old Occator crater.

Other separate studies also discovered the presence of hydrohalite - a compound found in sea ice that until now had never been found anywhere beyond the Earth.

"We can now say that Ceres is a sort of ocean world, as are some of Saturn's and Jupiter's moons," said Maria Cristina De Sanctis from Rome's Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica.

"The material found on Ceres is extremely important in terms of astrobiology. We know that these minerals are all essential for the emergence of life."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (12)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
Comment icon #4 Posted by stevewinn 4 years ago
All these icy ocean worlds in our solar system.Yet missions to such places are few and far between or non existent.  The holy grail was always to find liquid water. And the strong possibility of life existing in such conditions. Yet we go to Mars. Again 'n again. To me if your looking for life you go to one of these icy ocean moons.  Put Mars on the back burner and get our feet wet in these oceans. And search for life. With missions taking 20 years plus, to get off the drawing board. To launch pad. It could be some time yet. Which is disappointing.   
Comment icon #5 Posted by Orphalesion 4 years ago
I know right? Screw Mars, we know by now that it's a dead world. Let's send probes to Europa and Ceres to see what might exist under the ice there, or to Titan and see whether some sort of life manages to use the liquid methane there as a solvent instead of water..(plus there might be a liquid layer of water under the ice of Titan too...) 
Comment icon #6 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 4 years ago
Getting to Mars is, relatively, easy and cheap (by space exploration standards). Getting to the outer solar system is far harder and more expensive.  And when you get there then what. These liquid oceans are under kilometres of ice. There is virtually no chance of finding life on the surface and so, until the technology exists to send a lander that can drill to the ocean, there is no reasonable chance of finding that life, even if it exists there. Mars, on the other hand, is now known to.once have had surface conditions that were suitable for life. It may well have emerged there. If life star... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 4 years ago
Wrong answer. From a scientific point of view the only correct answer, at the moment, is there is not enough information to give an informed answer.  The default position of science, until evidence is acquired, is, "we don't know".
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 4 years ago
No we don't. 
Comment icon #9 Posted by Orphalesion 4 years ago
I know there could still be something on Mars, some hardy survivors and such. I just have more faith in the sub-ice oceans. 
Comment icon #10 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
We don't, but considering the chemistry behind life, simple life is probably common on ocean planets around high metallicity stars.   Life starts in oceans.  Just don't bring it back here......
Comment icon #11 Posted by stevewinn 4 years ago
Exactly. We go to these oceans and get an image as an alien fish swims by. Imagine that. That would capture the imagination of the public. And space exploration would see a boom. Especially private enterprise. What do people want to see a fish from one of these oceans or a picture of dead microbes.      
Comment icon #12 Posted by Free99 4 years ago
It’s out there we will find it one day or it will find us. I have no doubts. If you look at how big the universe is there is no way we are all that’s in it. But I seriously doubt our neighbors are anywhere close. This is the needle in a haystack mode for us. Between probes and scanning the universe with all of our technology we will find it. The real question is when it’s found will we even be told? Imagine how this is going to be taken with most religions on our planet. Suppressed? Who knows we are after all only human.

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