NASA Spotted A Gigantic Volcano Built On Ice Not Lava On Dwarf Planet Ceres

First Posted: Sep 03, 2016 04:32 AM EDT

NASA's Dawn spacecraft identified a giant mountain known as Ahuna Mons, which is a volcanic dome built from repeated eruptions of freezing salty water on the dwarf planet Ceres. It is an isolated mountain with about 13,000 feet in height and 11 miles wide at is base---about half the size of Mt. Everest.

Ahuna Mons is specifically a cryovolcano, which is a volcano that erupts a liquid made of volatiles such as water, instead of silicates. Ottaviano Ruesch of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Universities Space Research Association stated that Ahuna Mons is the only known example of a cryovolcano that potentially shaped from a salty mud mix, and that shaped in the geologically recent past.

Meanwhile, David A. Williams, associate research professor in Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration said that Ahuna is the one true "mountain" on Ceres and after studying it closely, they interpret it as a dome raised by cryovolcanism. "Ahuna is truly unique, being the only mountain of its kind on Ceres," said Williams. "It shows nothing to indicate a tectonic formation, so that led us to consider cryovolcanism as a method for its origin."

The researchers also discovered that Ahuna Mons is extremely young compared to volcanoes on the moon and Mars. Williams explained that Ahuna Mons has few craters on its surface. This means its age is just a couple hundred million years at most, according to Daily Galaxy.

According to NASA, the existence of Ahuna Mons indicates that the dwarf planet Ceres has a significant component of water-ice. This has been confirmed by a study conducted on Ceres' diverse geological features. Impact craters are also abundant on Ceres. Their various shapes suggest the detailed story of Ceres' past.

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