An ancient ocean on Ceres?


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Two studies released today by the Dawn science team suggest that the spacecraft has found evidence that an ancient ocean once existed on Ceres.

In one study, the Dawn team found Ceres’ crust is a mixture of ice, salts and hydrated materials that were subjected to past and possibly recent geologic activity, and this crust represents most of that ancient ocean. The second study builds off the first and suggests there is a softer, easily deformable layer beneath Ceres’ rigid surface crust, which could be the signature of residual liquid left over from the ocean, too.

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3 comments

  • Peter Arzenshek

    Interesting that the Occator crater is located in the deepest blue area of the gravitational map, indicating a high proportion of water under the surface, leading to less dense mass, and therefore lower gravitational field?

  • LocalFluff

    Ceres is now believed to be an ancient ocean bottom. Like an icy Jovian moon whose ice shell and underlying liquid ocean has evaporated, from bombardment and because Ceres is straddling the water ice line.

    I wonder if they have enough hydrazine left to soft land Dawn on Ceres. The gravity might be too high at 2.7% that of Earth’s.

  • Tom Billings

    One of the most interesting parts of the report is the mention of water clathrates.

    What many will think of first is:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane_clathrate

    That water clathrates can be stronger than water ice by 100-1000 to 1 is something I did not know. More immediately one should ask what is the gas bound in the clathrate. While methane comes to mind it is *far* from the only possibility.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_compound

    However, whatever trapped gas is available in a water caged clathrate may be several very good things for us. Fuel to combine with water’s Oxygen: Raw materials for industrial processes: Atmosphere for Ceres! Yes, an atmosphere, from the crust of Ceres could be maintained for a very long time by continual drilling and release of gas. Initially this will just be for habitats, but these will grow. Eventually this can encompass the entire dwarf planet. Yes, even with only 2.7% of Earth’s gravitational pull.

    The gas is unlikely to be Oxygen because that is so reactive, but it might well be CO2. If it is ammonia, then that can be broken down into hydrogen for fuel and free Nitrogen for export and for thickening the atmosphere of an Oxygen/Nitrogen mixture atmosphere. A nice mix of 40% Oxygen and 60% Nitrogen could give us atmosphere not approached since the Carboniferous Era, when all that Oxygen was being released into Earth’s atmosphere. Then Ceres could become famous as the only place where humans regularly fly under their own power with 2.7% of Earth’s gravity!

    Is Heaven out there between Mars and Jupiter??

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