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Using data from Dawn scientists have calculated that Ceres could have significant regions on the floors of crater, which are permanently shadowed and which could accumulate water ice.
In this study, Schorghofer and colleagues studied Ceres’ northern hemisphere, which was better illuminated than the south. Images from Dawn’s cameras were combined to yield the dwarf planet’s shape, showing craters, plains and other features in three dimensions. Using this input, a sophisticated computer model developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, was used to determine which areas receive direct sunlight, how much solar radiation reaches the surface, and how the conditions change over the course of a year on Ceres.
The researchers found dozens of sizeable permanently shadowed regions across the northern hemisphere. The largest one is inside a 10-mile-wide (16-kilometer) crater located less than 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the north pole. Taken together, Ceres’ permanently shadowed regions occupy about 695 square miles (1,800 square kilometers). This is a small fraction of the landscape — much less than 1 percent of the surface area of the northern hemisphere.
Because Ceres is much farther than the Sun that the Moon or Mercury, the scientists believe it very likely that water ice could have accumulated in these cold traps.