Water on Dwarf Planet Ceres Is Driving an Active Surface

A reconstructed perspective of Juling Crater, where a patch of water ice is slowly growing on the northern wall. Credit: IAPS – INAF (Italy)
Growing patches of ice and minerals associated with liquid water reveal that the dwarf planet Ceres is still evolving.

By Nola Taylor Redd | SPACE.com

Researchers studying the warmer region of Ceres — the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — have noticed that a patch of ice has grown larger over time. In addition, a separate team found carbon-rich minerals on Ceres‘ surface that do not last long . Together, the new discoveries suggest that water still has a powerful presence on the tiny world.

Using NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, the researchers studied the surface of the dwarf planet. The first team, led by Andrea Raponi, of the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), found a growing patch of ice on Juling Crater, found in the midlatitudes. They suspect that water from the crater floor is condensing on the wall, causing a patch of ice to grow larger. [7 Strange Facts About Dwarf Planet Ceres]

The second team, led by Filippo Giacomo Carrozzo, also of INAF, surveyed the carbon-rich minerals on the dwarf planet and mapped several regions in detail, revealing changes in the soil that they suspect are tied to the carbonates. The water-rich, or hydrated, minerals suggest that water has risen to the surface and boiled off, leaving the carbonates behind to reveal its presence.

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