Scientists have come up with a startling explanation for the creation of a strange, stripe-shaped mountain on the dwarf planet Ceres, a 600-mile wide body orbiting the sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  The huge peak, Ahuna Mons, formed when a lump of salty, rocky mud from the depths of Ceres broke through the icy crust and froze, according to a study published on June 10 in the journal Nature Geoscience ,
that Ceres is geologically active, with a cratered surface partially formed by eruptions not of molten rock – as on Earth – but of liquid water. This so-called cryovolcanism was observed on several bodies in the solar system and first on the Neptunmond Triton.
With a peak 4,000 to 5,000 meters above the surface, Ahuna Mons Ceres is the highest mountain. It was discovered in 201
The size of the isolated peak and the smooth contours – which are very different from those of the dwarf planet – caused a stir among scientists.
"My first reaction was, that's amazing," said study author Wladimir Neumann, a planetologist at the DLR Institute for Planetary Research in Berlin-Adlershof, about the unusual mountain. "The second was, that's something I've never seen before in reality or in pictures."
NASA says the "lonely mountain" is "like nothing humanity has ever seen before."
Subsequent investigations showed that Ahuna Mons was probably formed by cryovulcanic activity about 210 million years ago – relatively recently for a protoplaneten that had formed around 4.5 billion years ago – but the new study gives a more complete account Picture of the process.
Neumann and the other members of an international team of researchers studied gravitational data for Ceres obtained from the Dawn spacecraft. The data showed a large mass concentration under Ahuna Mons; The scientists used computer models to show that the so-called mascon was associated with a cloud of subterranean material that was the probable source of salt water that formed the mountain.
"We were genuinely surprised that the data collected by the Dawn mission enabled us to provide more information about Ahuna Mons region," said Antonio Genova , Geophysicist at Sapienza University in Rome and head of the research team in an e-mail.
The presence of liquid water on Ceres suggests that it may be habitable. But Genoa said that although Ceres could be "investigated for the possibility of habitability," the new research did not provide any clues to life on the dwarf planet.
"I do not think people believe there is life on Ceres," said Erwan Mazarico, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who was not involved in the new study. But he added, "It's an interesting place to learn about the processes that can give life."