Dwarf planet Ceres may store underground brine that still gushes up today | Science News

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Dwarf planet Ceres may store underground brine that still gushes up today

Waterlogged minerals and changing ice add to evidence that Ceres is geologically active

By
6:38pm, March 14, 2018
Ceres crater

FOLLOW THE ICE  A wall of ice in the shadows of Ceres’ Juling crater, shown here in an image taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, grew by about 50 percent over the course of six months.

Ceres may be regularly coughing up briny water or slush onto its surface.

The discovery of waterlogged minerals and a growing ice wall suggests that the dwarf planet could harbor underground liquid water or slushy brine, which has escaped through cracks and craters in the recent past and may still be seeping out today. The findings, reported in two papers published online March 14 in Science Advances, add to a growing realization that Ceres is geologically active — and may point to new signs of the dwarf planet’s potential to host the ingredients for life.

“We thought of Ceres as a dead body like our moon,” says Andrea Raponi, a coauthor of both studies and a planetary scientist at the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology in Rome. The growing body of evidence “means that Ceres is geologically alive, active, in our days.”

Since 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has orbited Ceres, the largest object in the

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