NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Finds an ‘Ocean World in Dwarf Planet Ceres

Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is actually an  “ocean world” with a large reservoir of water beneath its frigid surface.

In observations that raise interest in the dwarf planet, scientists said that it can be a possible outpost for life.

As per the Research Work which was published on Monday based on data collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which flew as near as 22 miles (35 km) from the surface in 2018, providing a new understanding of Ceres, including evidence suggesting it remains geologically active with cryovolcanism-volcanoes oozing icy material.

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Occator’s Frozen Salty Water, Image by Reuters

The results suggest the existence of an underground reservoir of huge salt-enriched water, slowly freezing subsurface ocean.

Scientist and Dawn principal investigator Carol Raymond said “This elevates Ceres to ‘ocean world’ status, noting that this category does not require the ocean to be global,”

“In the case of Ceres, we know the liquid reservoir is a regional scale but we cannot tell for sure that it is global. However, what matters most is that there is liquid on a large scale.” Carol Raymond added.

The diameter of Ceres is approximately 950 km. The researcher’s focus was on the 92-kilometre-wide Occator Crater, which was created in Ceres’ Northern hemisphere around 22 million years ago. It has two luminous areas – fluid-long salt crusts that percolate and evaporate up to the surface.

The liquid was created hundreds of kilometres wide in a sailing reservoir about 40 kilometres downstream, with an impact that generated fractures that allowed salty water to escape.

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Mosaic image uses false colour to highlight the recently explored salty liquids, Image by Reuters

The research was published in the journals Nature Astronomy, Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications.

Source: Reuters