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The Ceres Ocean

from c|net

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft discovers a hidden ocean under Ceres’ icy shell

Bright spots on Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, point to an underground ocean that remains active today.

by Jackson Ryan

A mosaic of Cerealia Facula highlighting the differences in composition. NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI

In the asteroid belt, an immense region of space between Mars and Jupiter, millions of rocky bodies serenely move around the sun in a timeless cosmic dance. Queen among the dancers is Ceres, the belt’s largest object and a “fossil” from the early days of the solar system. In 2007, NASA launched the Dawn spacecraft to the belt to study Ceres up close. After surveying the dwarf planet, tracing its blemishes and examining its sullen features, scientists reasoned it was once home to a global ocean that had frozen over. 

On Monday, a suite of seven studies in the journal Nature scrutinize extended mission data from Dawn, peering at Ceres’ dull, lifeless shell and finding definitive evidence that it is an ocean world.

“The new results confirm the presence of liquid inside Ceres,” says Julie Castillo-Rogez, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory (JPL) and co-author across six new studies. The discovery of liquids hints that Ceres, the closest dwarf planet to Earth, may have been a habitable world and raises the possibility that these types of worlds may harbor life. 

[ click to continue reading at c|net ]

Posted on August 10, 2020 by Editor

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