Update on Dawn at Ceres

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Link here. Though the story initially focuses on the possibility that the mission might be extended a few extra months until the spacecraft’s fuel runs out, it also gives a good summary of what has been learned so far about the dwarf planet, including the theory that Ceres was once an “ocean world.”

[Carol Raymond, Dawn’s deputy principal investigator,] said Ceres appears to be a former ocean world and could have once been similar to Europa or Enceladus, the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. “One of the things that we anticipated about Ceres before getting there is that it’s a former ocean world,” Raymond said. “We’re so interested in going to Europa and Enceladus, and these other interesting objects in the outer solar system because we think they harbor subsurface oceans at present, and possible habitable environments, and possibly even locations where there’s extant life.

“Ceres appears to have been one of those objects in the past, when it was younger and hotter,” Raymond said. “What we’re looking at now is, we believe, the remnant of a frozen ocean. The salt is left over from the brines that were concentrated as the ocean froze out, so it’s all a fairly consistent story that Ceres is a former ocean (world) where the ocean froze, and now we’re interrogating the chemistry, essentially, of that ocean-rock interface through the subsurface layers that we’re detecting on Ceres.”

The data has found the high latitudes to have lots of hydrogen, suggesting water-ice on or near the surface. The bright salt patches also suggest frozen water below the surface that left behind the salt when it reached the surface and evaporated away.

One comment

  • David M. Cook

    Just goes to show that there are hundreds if not thousands of locations around the solar system that need “boots-on-the-ground” scientific examinations. These will require an ARMY of scientists and technicians to fully investigate. Investments in these explorations will pay a wealth in new materials and processes that will assist mankind in the future. I just wish more folks on the left would support science instead of distorting it for political gain.

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