The interior of Ceres

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Using data from Dawn, scientists have created their first rough map of the internal structure of Ceres.

The data indicate that Ceres is “differentiated,” which means that it has compositionally distinct layers at different depths, with the densest layer at the core. Scientists also have found that, as they suspected, Ceres is much less dense than Earth, the moon, giant asteroid Vesta (Dawn’s previous target) and other rocky bodies in our solar system. Additionally, Ceres has long been suspected to contain low-density materials such as water ice, which the study shows separated from the rocky material and rose to the outer layer along with other light materials. “We have found that the divisions between different layers are less pronounced inside Ceres than the moon and other planets in our solar system,” Park said. “Earth, with its metallic crust, semi-fluid mantle and outer crust, has a more clearly defined structure than Ceres,” Park said.

Scientists also found that high-elevation areas on Ceres displace mass in the interior. This is analogous to how a boat floats on water: the amount of displaced water depends on the mass of the boat. Similarly, scientists conclude that Ceres’ weak mantle can be pushed aside by the mass of mountains and other high topography in the outermost layer as though the high-elevation areas “float” on the material below. This phenomenon has been observed on other planets, including Earth, but this study is the first to confirm it at Ceres.

In other words, Ceres behaves more like a semi-hardened blob of jello than a rock.


  • Cotour


    Q: Other than the FAA clearing you to launch a rocket within American air space, what laws must private individuals follow that they would need to get permission from the U.S. government to mine or even go to the moon?

    If you were able to launch from another country, say South of the border, why would anyone need permission to do what they wanted outside of earths atmosphere on another planet, moon, asteroid or what ever?

  • Dick Eagleson

    I think you got this comment on the wrong posting, Cotour, but it’s a good question anyway.

    The main legal impediment to lunar laissez faire is the Outer Space Treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory and which was ratified by the Senate. OST forbids sovereign territorial claims in outer space, though it doesn’t flatly forbid such things as mining of resources from celestial bodies. But OST also provides that signatory countries must exercise “continuing supervision” over any space activities undertaken by their citizens or by private organizations headquartered in their territory.

    Americans using American technology from a non-U.S. base of operations isn’t necessarily a viable “get around” of the OST. Deploying U.S. space technology outside the U.S. could easily run afoul of the quite separate ITAR (International Trafficking in Arms Regulations) law. Any sort of orbital or BEO launch capability, for example, is classified as a “munition” under ITAR and can’t be exported without U.S. government permission. The U.S. government has never granted such permission except to members of formal military alliances to which the U.S. is also a party.

  • wayne

    As always, very enlightening!

    slight tangent [but not as much as Cotour took, :) at least not today. :) ]
    >fairly lengthy article in the WSJ this week, which I can’t readily locate, concerning FAA regulation, in coordination with ‘international governing bodies,’ of space launches, satellites, etc.
    The general theme was; private-space is getting so active, it needs to be regulated more & on a world-wide coordinated basis. The FAA feels it should take the “regulatory lead,”
    Lots of talk about the “FAA making space safer” for all participants. (To me it sounds like a regulatory take-over of private-space.)

    as well as this, which I just spotted today.

  • Dick Eagleson

    There are a lot of regulatory issues that have yet to be formally clarified and which are becoming potentially contentious now that private sector space efforts are increasingly a “thing.” Sort of what would happen if, say, unicorns or wooly mammoths or dinosaurs or Bigfoot were suddenly discovered in some out-of-the-way place.

    The Outer Space Treaty requires “continuing supervision” by signatory states of space efforts conducted by its citizens or from within its territory. But the OST does not define much of what such “supervision” must or may consist.

    The OST forbids sovereign territorial claims in space, but does not flatly forbid private ownership of space resources, for example. The U.S. has recently passed legislation establishing rights to extracted resources by U.S.-chartered commercial entities and citizens.

    This provoked a lot of squawking from the mainly socialist “international legal community.” The squawking got even worse when a couple European countries did likewise; especially since one of those countries was Luxembourg which already punches waaaaay above its weight in space-related matters. Luxembourg is home to SES and Intelsat, the world’s two largest private operators of communications satellites.

    For a long time, telecommunications was the only significant private space industry and nearly all the relevant space assets were in GEO. International regulatory bodies had long since established “rules of the road” for GEO comsats. But now LEO and MEO are hosting more and more comsats, imaging sats, weather sats and other types of privately operated birds – some of them in sizeable constellations – with many more to come in the next few years. And there are serious private efforts underway to land on and prospect both the Moon and Mars as well as asteroids.

    All this has made the formerly sleepy field of space regulatory law suddenly hot.

    In the U.S., the FAA already had a licensing function for space launches and re-entries because both activities traverse controlled airspace, even if briefly.

    There are now moves afoot to make FAA the lead agency for space-related regulation of all kinds. Given FAA’s longstanding provision of air traffic control, these efforts have only intensified since USAF announced it would like to get out of the business of keeping track of space debris and satellites in orbit.

    The OST also requires nation states to see that space activities by their citizens and other entities do not interfere with one another. That, again, strikes some people as sounding a lot like what the FAA already does anent aircraft operation.

    Not everyone is on-board with the FAA being handed the general space regulation portfolio beyond just launch and re-entry licensing, but that seems to be the way things are headed here in the U.S.

    Should this come to pass, it will not fairly be characterizable as a “take-over” of private space any more than current FAA regs constitute a “take-over” of private-sector airlines or aircraft.

    The U.S. is the dominant power in space and looks to be, if anything, about to lengthen its lead considerably. U.S. government regulation of some sort was inevitably going to follow. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. That is especially true if the alternative is some draconian regime designed by the socialists and parasites (oops, that’s redundant, isn’t it?) of the U.N.

    The FAA, in combination with the great size of the U.S. air travel market, were the main reasons English was adopted as the standard language of air traffic control worldwide, even in areas where neither the pilots nor the controllers are native English-speakers. I, for one, would not be sorry to see the hegemony of English expanded to space.

    Internationally, things are a lot fuzzier. For space, there is nothing analogous to the International Seabed Authority, set up in the 70’s to regulate mineral extraction in the oceanic depths. Given that there has been essentially no mineral extraction in the oceanic depths since then, the lack of such an entity for space is, in my view, a very good thing.

    There will, doubtless, be fresh efforts made to gin one up. But, unlike the 70’s, there is no longer a Soviet Union and Red China with no ability to participate in seabed mining to back efforts to jam up the capitalist countries from doing so.

    Both Russia and China have space programs and have nothing to gain from cutting themselves off from space wealth they actually have a shot at cutting a slice of. Ditto India. Ditto even Brazil.

    I don’t see efforts to make space resources, like those of the seabed, “the common heritage of mankind” getting much of anywhere. Too many interested parties with a realistic shot at getting theirs who aren’t going to see much point in hobbling themselves for the theoretical future benefit of the citizens of Grasshutistan and their ilk.

  • wayne

    Dick E:
    Excellent stuff! (I enjoy your Style & Content.)

    just to clarify my general view slightly-
    I’m not a total wild-west, laissez-faire, free-spacer, & I do support voluntary Standards and general “rules-of-the-road,” type cooperative action, closer to home.
    (where people are, at least in theory, accountable to the voters.)

    I’m just highly leery of any regulation. The Commerce clause has just been twisted and contorted to death, and we have a long history of watching onerous regulations, slipped on slowly, that serve to create oligopolistic business-combinations & crowd out anyone with less resources than the big guys.
    (regulatory capture, works both ways, freely acknowledge)
    –raise the price of “Rocket License X” by a factor of 10 and that does serve to raise a barrier to entry. (or mandate some new & improved “safety-test,” etc.)
    — It always starts out small & perfectly “reasonable,”…but if you give these people an inch, they inevitably take a meter, and before you know it– all the Case Law supports their dystopian-views, no matter how absurd they eventually become.

    (Like, “not-growing-wheat,” magically gets contorted into the power to impose the ACA, with enough Time & Lawyering in the mix.

    If we were in a pre-FDR regulatory environment, (Or my ultimate preference, re-1900.) I’d feel a lot a better about the whole “regulation of Space, ‘local’ or otherwise,” going forward.

    As a tangent– I would shill for-

    Part 3, “The Decline of Laissez-Faire; Cartelization, Regulation, rise & fall of Monopoly”
    from Murray Rothbards,
    “The American Economy & the end of laissez-faire, 1870-WW-2”
    (In his own voice, highly informative & entertaining.)
    ((Highly recommend the entire lecture-series.))

  • Edward

    Dick Eagleson,
    Deep sea mining was such a popular idea, back then, that two movies were made around the idea. It seems that it may finally start happening: “[Deep sea mining’s] first incarnation will most likely occur off the coast of Papua New Guinea in late 2017 / early 2018 when the Nautilus Minerals Inc. seeks to remove gold and copper from inactive hydrothermal vent zones at depths between 1000 and 1500 meters.”

    “The drafting of ISA Exploitation Contract regulations is regarded as a crucial exercise, both by would-be exploiters and by marine conservationists. The final regulations will govern all seabed mining in the High Seas. But it will also affect EEZ seabeds, since UNCLOS requires its signatory states to govern their seabeds in accordance with ISA standards. The next half-decade therefore presents a unique opportunity in human affairs: a chance to devise a regulatory regime to govern an important extractive industry before it begins.”

    Well, doesn’t that sound just like over-regulation before regulation is needed? They intend to create “final regulations” before the industry begins, which means that they are not taking the reality of the industry into account, because there has yet to be any practical mining to find what to regulate and how it needs to be regulated. They are guessing. (As Gene Kranz famously said, “Don’t make things worse by guessing.”)

    Meanwhile, commercial space is being regulated differently. The FAA is allowing startups in the commercial suborbital space business to create their industry before figuring out (much of) what regulations are necessary. The FAA intends to regulate reality, not some bureaucrat’s fantasy about a hypothetical industry.

    I am ambivalent about whether the FAA should regulate space. There are many similarities (e.g. making lightweight but strong structures safe, efficient, and effective), but there are several differences between outer space and air space (e.g. structural requirements of strictly space-based hardware vs. aircraft and radiation levels and radiation types in outer space vs. air space). If the FAA regulates outer space (would we then call it the Federal Aviation and Space Administration?), it would be better to have a different set of regulations for outer space in order to distinguish from the requirements of airborne craft or to distinguish from the requirements of airborne craft on, for instance, Mars.

    Wayne, your preference for pre-1900 regulations seems rather nice. We had plenty of freedoms to invent airplanes, build canals (even in Panama) and railroads (which made the country strong), and to farm (which made the country prosperous). These freedoms are what de Tocqueville thought gave the US such high living standards and desirable social conditions.

    But post 1920s, regulations and regulatory bodies seem to have multiplied in number and individually to have grown quickly into empire-like entities, and these days we can have mutually exclusive regulations and laws, each carrying hefty fines. Just look at the poor residents of South Lake Tahoe, who are required by the fire department to clear the pine needles from their properties and create defensible space (e.g. trim or remove trees), yet forbidden to do so by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

    After a 2007 wildfire destroyed some homes, the fire department seems to be winning this safety and property protection issue, but wouldn’t it be nice if we had the freedom to choose to balance safety and property protection with environmental protections, rather than be micromanaged as to exactly how to do it? Some of us may even find better ways than the government (or homeowner’s association) thought of.

    But, no. We have to be told how to live our lives and perhaps how to run our commercial space companies, as though we live in a socialist or communist country.

  • Dick Eagleson

    The FAA, a subsidiary of the Department of Transportation, may not be the ideal agency in which to repose regulation of space affairs, but there are certainly worse places one could choose. The Departments of Commerce and Defense come to mind.

    Common carrier transportation of most kinds was once much more tightly regulated than it is now. The, now-defunct, Interstate Commerce Commission was essentially a Soviet-style centralized planning and price fixing agency that decided what railroads, truck lines and airlines could charge, what routes they could serve and even what companies would be allowed into those businesses. The last 40 years have seen huge gains in liberty in these spheres and regulation of space could do a lot worse than to be regulated by one of the few federal agencies that has been running counter to the general trend of more government intrusion/usurpation in recent decades.

    There’s no question regulation has gotten seriously out of hand in some quarters. The EPA and equivalent state agencies are notorious offenders. But this stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum. These agencies are responsive to the administration in power, though admittedly they are more responsive to a statist administration such as Obama’s than to one headed by, say, a Reagan or a Bush.

    The only non-violent way to reign in such excesses is to elect governments that are not hell-bent-for-leather to impose ever more statist restrictions on human action. No one who loves liberty should ever, under any circumstances, vote for a Democrat, for instance. Many Republicans need to be regarded with considerable skepticism as well.

    Ultimately, the only way to reform large government agencies that have been irretrievably taken over by bureaucratic statists is to apply the PATCO solution – fire everybody and start over from scratch – or just leave the agency permanently in the ground. That requires a President with both the good sense and fortitude of a Ronald Reagan.

    The country is ripe for such leadership, but it is difficult to say that it is on offer this election cycle.

    Certainly not from Hillary Clinton. All you can expect from her is more of the same arrogant and incompetent statist technocracy that has hamstung the country these past seven and a half years.

    Mr. Trump is a question mark, but the early indications aren’t terribly favorable. At the moment he seems much more enthusiastic about fighting with other Republicans over real or imagined slights than doing real battle with Hillary Clinton. It seems unlikely Mr. Trump would be as deliberately disastrous as Barack Obama has been and Hillary Clinton would be, but Mr. Trump seems quite mercurial and not much given to thinking things through before speaking or acting.

    What we need is a tough-as-nails chess player. Neither major party seems to have provided one this election cycle. None of the minor parties have anyone worthy on offer either.

    I fear we are likely in for another four years of “interesting times.” In the case of a Trump victory, there seems a chance at least some of the interestingness may be favorable to the nation. I hold out no such hopes for anything undertaken by a notional H. Clinton administration. Accordingly, I will be voting for Mr. Trump come November and hoping for the best.

    Given that I live in California, my vote will be of symbolic importance only, but I’ve long since become used to that.

  • wayne

    Good stuff–many excellent points.

    (The road to hell has been paved with contorted Commerce Clause Cases, and “public health & safety” overreaches.)

    One last tidbit–
    Brief excerpt of a Federalist-Society forum featuring Richard Epstein:
    “Regulation: Killing the Long-Term Flow of Technology”
    (aka his, “I can’t forget about Wickard v. Filburn…” speech.)
    –wherein he briefly summarizes the invention of insulin & describes the FDA’s power pre-FDR, but you could just as easily insert any of the alphabet-agencies into the story, and the theme would be the same.

  • wayne

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t toss this one into the mix, as well:

    Richard Epstein:
    “Is the Administrative State Consistent with the Rule of Law?”

    The brief answer– “no, it’s not.”

  • Edward

    Dick Eagleson,
    Surprisingly, airline deregulation came under Carter’s administration. (He did something right? Go figure.) The legacy of this deregulation is likely why the FAA has not already overregulated commercial space; the FAA’s culture is no longer built for overregulation.

    If another government bureaucracy is to regulate private space, then it would have to be a newly formed one, which risks that it will quickly create its own bureaucratic empire and overregulate space.

    Epstein is right that overregulation prevents progress. As someone noted in the 1970s or 1980s, if gasoline or diesel engines had been invented at that time, regulators would have banned them as unsafe, as their fuels are so flammable (and leaks so environmentally unfriendly). The same goes for steam engines, because relief valves were not on the original design. Without the steam engine, we would not have had trains, but these three engines helped create such widespread rapid transportation that famines became rare, except for political reasons.

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