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Ceres is more than just a space rock

Outer crust of minerals, salts, ices cover dwarf planet’s solid core

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1:00pm, August 3, 2016
Ceres

NOT SOLID AS A ROCK  Dwarf planet Ceres (seen in this image from the Dawn spacecraft) has layers that could point to how and where it formed, a new study suggests.

Like an interplanetary parfait, the dwarf planet Ceres appears to have layers.

A pliable outer shell of minerals, ices and salts encapsulates a core of solid rock, a new study suggests. This first peek inside Ceres — courtesy of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft — can help researchers explain some mysteries on the surface and provide insight into the many ways planets and asteroids might be assembled. Ryan Park, a planetary scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues report the findings online August 3 in Nature.

“Before we got to Ceres, we didn’t know what the interior looked like,” Park says. “Its evolution is more complex than what we envisioned.”

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