Water found on Ceres

An artistic representation of Ceres spewing out water vapour.

An artistic representation of Ceres spewing out water vapour.

 

Ceres was first classified as an asteroid but upgraded its status to dwarf planet recently.  For about 30 years scientists have speculated about whether or not Ceres contains water.  Well finally they have their answer.

Ceres is the dwarf planet and largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  When it was first discovered it was only thought to be a massive asteroid.  But when scientists discovered that Ceres is shaped like a sphere and that it might have a silicate core and icy exterior its status changed from asteroid to dwarf planet in 2008.  Now that scientists have discovered evidence of water on Ceres it is even more planet-like.

The inside of Ceres

The inside of Ceres

 

After long suspicion from scientists in 1991 there were signs of hydroxide on Ceres which is a product of water’s dissociation.  Now they found water vapour spewing out of the planet at two sources.  With use of the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory scientist found these plumes erupting from Ceres’ surface.  This finding now suggests that scientist suspicions were right along and there really is water on Ceres.  Scientists are just not sure if the water plumes are emitted from geysers, or icy volcanoes.  Scientist do know that the water vapour is spewing out a rate of 6 kilograms per second which would suggest great amounts of water.  Could there be a sub surface ocean on Ceres?  All will be revealed in 2015 when the space probe Dawn is to arrive at and start orbiting Ceres.  Dawn just finished its mission at Vesta, the second largest object in the asteroid belt and is already on its way to Ceres where hopefully it can reveal all the secrets that Ceres holds.

Between Mars and Jupiter, there is the asteroid belt in which you will find Ceres.

Between Mars and Jupiter, there is the asteroid belt in which you will find Ceres.

 

The discovery of water on Ceres is a strong backup for the theory scientists have about life on Earth.  They say that Earth was bombarded with rocks from outer space which carried water and carbon molecules.  This carbon molecules and water is thought to be essential ingredients for life.  Michael Küppers of the European Space Agency in Spain reported: “This is the first clear-cut detection of water on Ceres and in the asteroid belt in general”.

 

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