Dwarf Planet Ceres Shows Cryovolcanic Activity

Posted: Mar 8 2017, 7:37am CST | by , Updated: Mar 8 2017, 7:39am CST , in Latest Science News


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Dwarf Planet Ceres Shows Cryovolcanic Activity
This view of the whole Occator crater shows the brightly colored pit in its center and the cryovolcanic dome. The jagged mountains on the edge of the pit throw their shadows on parts of the pit. This image was taken from a distance of 1478 kilometers above the surface and has a resolution of 158 meters per pixel. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
  • Ceres may have had many cryovolcanoes

Ceres had very active ice volcanoes a few million years ago

The NASA’s space probe Dawn is with Ceres, the dwarf planet for two years. Ceres orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter within the asteroid belt. Initially, the prob moved towards lower orbits till the time between Dec. 2015 and Sep. 2016.

The dawn cameras captured high resolution images of Ceres at low altitude. The resolution of the images was 35 meters per pixel. MPS leadership supervised the whole process of development, and operation of the imaging system of the dawn framing cameras.

MPS researchers studied the geological structures as shown in the images of Occator crater, including avalanches, fractures, and small craters.The images help scientists understand the origin of crater, said Andreas Nathues, Framing Camera Lead Investigator.

Occator crater exists in the northern hemisphere of Ceres with a pit of 11 kilometers diameter. Steep slopes and mountains appeared at 750 meters high on some areas of its edges. A dome with 3 kilometer diameter formed within the pit, having 400 meters height and shows fractures.

The brightest material, named Cerealia Facula exists in the dome on Ceres, said MPS scientist Thomas Platz. According to VIR data, Ceres has abundant amount of carbonates.

The bright material in the dome creates spots named Vinalia Faculae. The images by VIR show that there is a mixture of carbonates, and the dark material.

The material’s age around the dome shows that Cerealia Facula developed due to an eruptive process that moved the material to the outer parts of the pit.

According to MPS scientists, Ceres has similar process. The light at the bottom of Occator is different from that present on Ceres. Scientists believe that a thin haze developed on crater floor due to water coming from fractures in the crater floor through its exposure to sunlight.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington manages Dawns mission to Ceres and Vesta. Dawn is Discovery Program of the directorate’s project being managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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