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An analysis of data from Dawn has shown that Ceres’s landslides are distributed in greater numbers towards the poles, which suggests the presence of water ice just below the surface.
Georgia Tech Assistant Professor and Dawn Science Team Associate Britney Schmidt led the study. She believes it provides more proof that the asteroid’s shallow subsurface is a mixture of rock and ice. “Landslides cover more area in the poles than at the equator, but most surface processes generally don’t care about latitude,” said Schmidt, a faculty member in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “That’s one reason why we think it’s ice affecting the flow processes. There’s no other good way to explain why the poles have huge, thick landslides; mid-latitudes have a mixture of sheeted and thick landslides; and low latitudes have just a few.”
The data also showed that Ceres has far more landslides than expected, which also supports the idea that the shallow subsurface has a lot of water ice in it, as much as 10% to 50% by volume.