Ceres May Have Vanishing Ice Volcanoes

Posted: Feb 3 2017, 5:42am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Ceres May Have Vanishing Ice Volcanoes
This is Ahuna Mons seen in a simulated perspective view. The elevation has been exaggerated by a factor of two. The view was made using enhanced-color images from NASA's Dawn mission. Credit: NASA

Scientists found that Ceres, the dwarf planet may have invisible ice volcanoes

Scientists recently discovered something new about solitary ice volcano that occurred on Ceres, and found that the planet may have ancient siblings. Scientists observed how the cryo volcanoes, or ice rocks disappeared millions of years before.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft discovered this small planet Ceres's 4-kilometer tall Ahuna Mons cryo volcano in 2015. We have more icy regions in our solar system, including Pluto, Europa, Triton, Charon and Titan that may have cryo volcanoes, but the recently discovered Ahuna Mons is the only one on Ceres.

Ceres has an orbit lying between mars and Jupiter, and also exists close to the sun than the rest of planets with cryo volcanoes. Scientists believe that Ceres may have other cryo volcanoes millions of years before, but they got flat and disappeared.

The research study published in a journal of the American Geophysical Union, named Geophysical Research Letters.

This is a remarkable discovery that there used to be several cryo volcanoes on Ceres that disappeared said Michael Sori of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and lead author of the new paper.

Ahuna Mons is a prominent mountain having a size half of the Mount Everest, but why is it alone that amazed the scientists. They think that it’s confusing that there was only one volcano, said Sori.

Scientists are considering two possibilities behind this mystery that either Ahuna Mons was alone or some phenomenon damaged its ancient family, leaving Ahuna Mons alone on the tiny planet.

There is no atmosphere on Ceres so there is no chance that it got destroyed because of rain, wind and ice. So,scientists hypothesized that there may have been another reason named viscous relaxation behind the phenomenon. Vicious relaxation is a process in which the rocks may flatten after a while.

Sori explained that vicious relaxation makes glaciers flow on earth. Though, the process can’t affect earth’s volcanoes because they are rocky, but they canaffect Ceres volcanoes with ice. Vicious relaxation flattened the cryo volcanoes over the years so they are not visible now. As Ceres is located close to the sun, that also affected it, said Sori.

To test this hypothesis, Sori and colleagues used a model by taking real dimensions of Ahuna Mons to observe the flow of mountain. They followed using different water contents of mountain making material with 100 percent water ice to 40 percent water ice, Sori explained.

The team found that Ahuna should have more than 40 percent water ice to get affected by vicious relaxation. They assumed that Ahuna Mons should be flattening out at a rate of 10 to 50 meters per million years. The team also found that Ahuna is 200 million years old that could not deform it. Scientists will also study to detect the flattened remains of cryo volcanoes that would help scientists understand how the planet Ceres formed.

This research study helped scientists explore the planetary body more in our solar system, stated Kelsi Singer, a postdoctoral researcher who studies icy worlds at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and was not involved with the new research.

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