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Ceres is more than just a space rock

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

1:00pm, August 3, 2016

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.”

Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt, the field of rocks that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Ceres since March 6

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