This artist’s concept shows a diagram of how the inside of Ceres could be structured, based on data about the dwarf planet’s gravity field from NASA’s Dawn mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
In the tens of thousands of photos returned by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, the interior of Ceres isn’t visible. But scientists have powerful data to study Ceres’ inner structure: Dawn’s own motion.
Since gravity dominates Dawn’s orbit at Ceres, scientists can measure variations in Ceres’ gravity by tracking subtle changes in the motion of the spacecraft. Using data from Dawn, scientists have mapped the variations in Ceres’ gravity for the first time in a new study in the journal Nature, which provides clues to the dwarf planet’s internal structure.
“The new data suggest that Ceres has a weak interior, and that water and other light materials partially separated from rock during a heating phase early in its history,” said Ryan Park, the study’s lead author and the supervisor of the solar system dynamics group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
Ceres’ gravity field is measured by monitoring radio signals sent to Dawn, and then received back on Earth, by NASA’s Deep Space Network. This network is a collection of large ...