Ceres: The Smallest and the Closest Dwarf Planet

July 02, 2018
Ever imagined where in our universe could we possibly find a place that could harbor life? The answer might lie well within our solar system and too on a small dwarf planet.

Ceres, a dwarf planet located in the inner reaches of our solar system (discovered by Sicilian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi on January 1, 1801), is the closest to our sun and is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Various observations made from earth and planetary exploration by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have unearthed many vital information about this tiny celestial body.
An artist's illustration of Ceres based on mapping and observations from NASA's Dawn spacecraft currently orbiting the dwarf planet in the Asteroid Belt.

Most of the surface of Ceres is dull gray which according to spectral observations is due to presence of a form of graphite known as graphitized carbon.

Many bright spots of varying brightness have been observed on its surface which according to early speculations point towards the presence of ice volcanoes. However, only a single "lonely mountain" rises from its surfacewith no evidence of volcanic or other geologic activity to suggest its puzzling origin.

The most intriguing findings amongst all have been the tracesof an ocean in the crust, with signs of a muddy mantle below the surface. Signs of carbonates have similarly been found, making Ceres one of the only bodies in the solar system known to contain these minerals, the other two being Earth and Mars.

In 2014, the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory detected plumes of water vapor escaping from the dwarf planet at a rate of 13 lbs. (6 kilograms) per second (the first definitive observation of water vapor on Ceres and in the asteroid belt in general).

Further exploration will reveal more relevant information about this dwarf planet which may someday in the near future serve as a potential site for manned landings and a launching point for manned deep space missions.

Post Written By - Manash Hazarika

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.