Ceres is the largest object in the Asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter. In a new study, scientists suggest this Dwarf planet contains a large body of salt water beneath its cold surface.
The researchers describe Ceres as an “ocean world” – a place that could have the right conditions to support living organisms.
The study was published in the publications earlier this month Natural astronomy, Natural geosciences and Nature communication.
The research is based on data collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which flew up to 35 kilometers to the surface of Ceres in 201
The scientists say their results confirm the presence of a reservoir of salt water beneath the surface that has slowly frozen. Dawn planetary researcher and chief investigator Carol Raymond told Reuters that it is this finding that makes Ceres an ocean world, even though liquid does not cover the entire dwarf planet.
“In the case of Ceres, we know that it is a fluid reservoir regional scale but we can’t say for sure that it is global. Most importantly, there is liquid on a large scale, ”said Raymond.
Ceres is approximately 950 kilometers away. The scientists concentrated their work on a 92 kilometers wide crater originated when a large object hit Ceres about 22 million years ago. The crater has two bright areas caused by salt buildup from liquids that have reached the surface.
The scientists say the liquid started in a saltwater reservoir hundreds of kilometers wide about 40 kilometers below the surface. When the large object hit Ceres, cracks formed in the surface of the dwarf planet through which salt water could escape.
There are several other bodies of the solar system beyond Earth that seem to have at least oceans below the surface. These include Jupiter’s moon Europa, Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Neptune’s moon Triton and the dwarf planet Pluto.
Water is seen as a vital necessity. Scientists want to investigate whether Ceres was ever home microbial Life.
Planetary researcher Julie Castillo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said there was a lot of interest now in investigating the possibility of life in Cerer’s Reservoir. This is especially true for “when you consider that it is cold and it will be quite rich in salts, ”she added.
I am Pete Musto.
Will Dunham reported the story for Reuters News Service. Pete Musto is learning English there for VOA. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
Words in this story
Asteroid belt – – n. a collection of thousands of tiny planets orbiting the sun
Dwarf planet – – n. An object in space that looks like a small planet, but it lacks certain technical characteristics necessary to be classified as such
geological – – adv. in a way that relates to rocks, land, or processes of land formation
reservoir – – n. a place where a liquid is stored
regional – – adj. a part of a country or world that is in any way different from or separate from other parts
frame – – n. the size or level of something, especially when compared to something else
global – – adj. involve the whole world
crater – – n. a large round hole in the ground caused by a bomb exploding or something falling from the sky
microbial – – adj. an extremely small living thing that can only be seen with a microscope
quite – – adv. to a very noticeable degree or extent
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