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Ceres: The Lesson of Occator Crater

12 Aug 2020, 16:58 UTC
Ceres: The Lesson of Occator Crater
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We learned some time ago from the Dawn mission just how interesting a place Ceres is. If you’re wanting to dig into the latest research on the dwarf planet, as it is now termed, be aware that a collection of papers has appeared in Nature Astronomy, Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications, all published on August 10. These analyze data gathered during Dawn’s second extended mission (XM2) phase, which closed with a series of low orbits as close as 35 kilometers from the surface. Rather than listing these papers separately, I’ll just offer this link to the entire collection at nature.com.

The upshot is that we’re continuing to learn about a small world that remains surprisingly active. Let’s home in on cryovolcanism, which leverages the temperature differential between a frozen world’s interior water and its frigid surface to produce ejections. These are becoming almost common — think Enceladus, for example, and then remember what Voyager saw at Triton. The thinking has been that some kind of cryovolcanism makes sense in the outer Solar System because the gas and ice giants place gravitational stresses on their moons that warm their interior.
But Ceres? Not only is it the only dwarf planet inside ...

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