The dwarf planet Ceres is an ocean world, according to a major exploration mission and extensive studies made public on Monday. Ceres was long believed to be a space rock, but now scientists from Europe and USA say that it has reservoirs of sea water beneath its surface.
Situated between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt. This allowed NASA Dawn spacecraft to take high-resolution images of its surface, from just around 35 kilometers. A team of scientists analyzed these images and discovered a compound called hydrohalite. According to Phys.org, this material is usually found in Earth`s sea ice and was never discovered outside our planet.
Why is this a big discovery? “The material found on Ceres is extremely important in terms of astrobiology. […] We know that these minerals are all essential for the emergence of life”, said Maria Cristina De Sanctis, from Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Roma.
“We can now say that Ceres is a sort of ocean world, as are some of Saturn’s and Jupiter’s moons”.
The findings were backed up by several studies published on Monday in the journals Nature Geoscience, Nature Communications, and Nature Astronomy.