Ahuna Mons, Ceres’s biggest mountain, is an ice volcano

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Ahuna Mons

Using data from Dawn scientists have concluded that Ceres’s biggest mountain, Ahuna Mons (shown on the right), was created by water volcanism.

“Ahuna is the one true ‘mountain’ on Ceres,” said David A. Williams, associate research professor in Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. “After studying it closely, we interpret it as a dome raised by cryovolcanism.” This is a form of low-temperature volcanic activity, where molten ice — water, usually mixed with salts or ammonia — replaces the molten silicate rock erupted by terrestrial volcanoes. Giant mountain Ahuna is a volcanic dome built from repeated eruptions of freezing salty water.

The implications of this fact are important, as it suggests that Ceres’s interior was warm enough for long periods, enough to melt ice. Where that heat came from however is a mystery, considering the dwarf planet’s small size.

One comment

  • PeterF

    Perhaps Ceres consists mostly of the water that was blown off of mars after the impacter created the Hellas basin and eventually allowed mars’ molten core to bleed out the cracks on the other side of the planet resulting in the creation of Olympus Mons.
    The debris would have been captured by Jupiter’s gravity and eventually shepherded into an orbit where loose material eventually congregates, described as the asteroid belt.
    If most of the water coalesced into a bubble it would create a large body that could be described as “soft”…

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