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NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Data Show 'Water-Ice' On The Dwarf Planet Ceres

First Posted: Dec 17, 2016 02:54 AM EST
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A new study reveals that one of the craters of the planet Ceres that Dawn spacecraft tracked contains "water-ice." The team detected ice on Ceres' cold pockets on its surface.

In the study, the team examined the images of craters in the northern polar region of Ceres captured by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. The findings of the study were printed in journal Nature Astronomy on Dec. 15, 2016. They discovered locations of at least 634 craters and the dark regions are about 822 square miles of Ceres' surface. The team found that one of the reflective surfaces of Ceres contains water-ice, according to Space.com.

Thomas Plats, the lead author of the study and the geologist at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen in Germany, said that it is unlikely that the solar wind formed much of the water on Ceres since it is so far away from the Sun. He further said that it is surprising to know that the ice was seen in just one of the craters.

He then explained that one possibility is that cosmic impacts may have masked the ice in other craters with dust. It might also be that the axial tilt of Ceres may vary over very long periods of time. This exposes the craters to sunlight that could destroy the water ice.

On the other hand, Platz said that the finding of water-ice on Ceres should not mean it is a sign of life on the said planet. He further said that it is cold in these permanent shadows with about 60 Kelvin (minus 351 degrees Fahrenheit, minus 213 degrees Celsius). He added that he presently does not see how life can form in such places.

Ceres is known as both asteroid and a dwarf planet with a diameter of about 945 kilometers (587 miles). It the 33rd largest known body in the Solar System. Ceres is discovered on Jan. 1, 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi in Palermo. It was the first asteroid discovered though originally considered a planet and then classified as an asteroid in 1850. The planet is composed of rock and ice. 

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