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NASA's New Images Of Our First Asteroid, Ceres, Sheds Light On Its Greatest Mystery

NASA s New Images Of Our First Asteroid Ceres Sheds Light On Its Greatest Mystery


Sure, Ceres is significantly larger, more massive and somewhat farther away from the Sun than Vesta is. But is that really sufficient to explain these “white spots” at the bottom of what appears to be perhaps the largest crater on Ceres? Right now, there are three leading possible explanations:

  1. This is, in fact, water-ice. Frozen water at the bottom of this crater, quite surprisingly, remains stable, even in direct sunlight, even near the equator. This rocky, giant asteroid can stably hold onto this ice, even over billions of years.
  2. This is some other form of ice: perhaps frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice), which has a higher molecular weight than water does. In some ways, this would be even more surprising, since even though it’s more difficult for it to reach escape velocity, dry ice sublimates at a much lower temperature than water does.
  3. This is some solid, rock-like feature that simply has a different reflectivity (or albedo) than the rest of the asteroid. This could be intrinsic to Ceres (its version of bedrock) or it could have been from material brought to Ceres by an impact.

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Water! Even our asteroids have water!

Comets are like asteroids but mainly made of ice.

Water really is everywhere.

But liquid water... that's another question!

Hence the need for missions on Europe, Ganymade and Enceladus to confirm the presence of water oceans.

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