Cryovolcanoes! Ceres Might Have Them After All

Credit: Pixabay

Dwarf Planet Ceres may be spouting cryovolcanoes from one more location on its crust.

Close-up images from NASA’s Dawn mission, which orbited Ceres from 2015 to 2018, showed salt deposits in the crater Urvara, which were discovered for the first time in a recent research. According to the study team, the salt reserves may be related to glacial volcanoes whose salinity ascended to the top throughout time.

Considering the presence of salt deposits in several zones on Ceres, the conclusion is that there may be a supply of salt beneath the asteroid’s surface, including a hypothetical salty ocean.

The broader implications are what water may signify on a globe shorter than 300 miles (482 km) in diameter, particularly in terms of deciphering the genesis of Ceres and other dwarf planets. It’s far from the first research to imply the existence of a secret global ocean inside Ceres, and it adds to years of discussion over how such a large amount of liquid water could exist in such a small planet so far out in the planetary system.

The researchers primarily used photographs obtained by Dawn throughout its prolonged mission, which placed the spacecraft near 22 miles (35 kilometers) of the surface in order to capture high-resolution imagery. The images revealed geologically strikingly varied geography within Urvara, the researchers stated in a press publication, which include terraced crater wall surfaces, a huge mountain range, jagged cliffs, and, most notably for the cryovolcano statement, luminous material that appears to be salts similar to those discovered in the much more popular Occator crater.

This is the first instance salt deposits plus organic chemicals have been discovered in close proximity to one another on the surface. The organics discovery has significant implications for Ceres’s entire geologic background, as well as for astrobiology and habitability.

The researchers will examine the organics from Urvara to those from another crater, Ernutet, in order to get a better understanding of the astrobiology and habitability connections.

William Reid
A science writer through and through, William Reid’s first starting working on offline local newspapers. An obsessive fascination with all things science/health blossomed from a hobby into a career. Before hopping over to Optic Flux, William worked as a freelancer for many online tech publications including ScienceWorld, JoyStiq and Digg. William serves as our lead science and health reporter.