Dawn spacecraft maps water beneath the surface of Ceres | Science News

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Dawn spacecraft maps water beneath the surface of Ceres

Evidence builds for abundant water ice on the dwarf planet

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1:30pm, December 15, 2016
hydrogen on ceres

ICY REALMS  Dwarf planet Ceres has more hydrogen beneath its surface near the poles, indicating a subsurface layer of ice mixed in with the rock. Blue shows where the hydrogen abundance is highest.

Water ice lies just beneath the cratered surface of dwarf planet Ceres and in shadowy pockets within those craters, new studies report. Observations from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft add to the growing body of evidence that Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, has held on to a considerable amount of water for billions of years.

“We’ve seen ice in different contexts throughout the solar system,” says Thomas Prettyman, a planetary scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson and coauthor of one of the studies, published online December 15 in Science. “Now we see the same thing on Ceres.” Ice accumulates in craters on Mercury and the moon, an icy layer sits below the surface of Mars, and water ice slathers the landscape of several moons of the outer planets. Each new sighting of H2O contributes to the story of how the solar system formed and how water was delivered to a young Earth.

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