Dwarf Planet Ceres | 13 Aug 2020

Why in News

As per the data collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, dwarf planet Ceres reportedly has salty water underground.

  • Dawn (2007-18) was a mission to the two most massive bodies in the main asteroid belt - Vesta and Ceres.

Key Points

  • Latest Findings:
    • The scientists have given Ceres the status of an “ocean world” as it has a big reservoir of salty water underneath its frigid surface.
      • This has led to an increased interest of scientists that the dwarf planet was maybe habitable or has the potential to be.
      • Ocean Worlds is a term for ‘Water in the Solar System and Beyond’.
    • The salty water originated in a brine reservoir spread hundreds of miles and about 40 km beneath the surface of the Ceres.
    • Further, there is an evidence that Ceres remains geologically active with cryovolcanism - volcanoes oozing icy material.
      • Instead of molten rock, cryovolcanoes or salty-mud volcanoes release frigid, salty water sometimes mixed with mud.
  • Subsurface Oceans on other Celestial Bodies: Jupiter’s moon Europa, Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Neptune’s moon Triton, and the dwarf planet Pluto.
    • This provides scientists a means to understand the history of the solar system.
  • Ceres:
    • It is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
      • It was the first member of the asteroid belt to be discovered when Giuseppe Piazzi spotted it in 1801.
    • It is the only dwarf planet located in the inner solar system (includes planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars).
      • Scientists classified it as a dwarf planet in 2006.
    • It has a diameter of about 950 km, which is more than one-fourth of Earth’s moon.
      • It takes 1,682 Earth days, or 4.6 Earth years, to make one trip around the sun.
      • It completes one rotation around its axis every 9 hours.
    • It does not have any moon or rings.
    • It has a 92 km wide crater named Occator located in its northern hemisphere.

Dwarf Planets

  • According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which sets definitions for planetary science, a dwarf planet is a celestial body that - orbits the sun, has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape, has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit and is not a moon.
  • The first five recognised dwarf planets are Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea.

Source: IE