When Ceres Freezes Over

Sept52016… you get ice volcanoes!!!

Ceres is a dwarf planet about the size of Texas, that sits between Mars and Jupiter and is the topic of a very exciting discussion this month. The NASA spacecraft “Dawn” has been orbiting Ceres since the Spring of 2015 to study its geology and composition. Dawn observed a 4 kilometer (about 2.5 miles) tall mountain that appears to be a cryovolcano! What is a cryovolcano, you ask? Well, it’s a volcano that erupts water, mud, and methane instead of lava. The volcano, named Ahuna Mons, appears to be a relatively new addition to the surface of Ceres, which means that the planet has been geologically active in the recent past. The scientists have also observed what they believe to be patches of frozen water on the surface of Ceres, and a type of mineral called phyllosilicates that forms in the presence of water.

You might be wondering why these scientists are getting so excited about a little water. I mean, we have oceans full of it here, right? Well, for one thing Ceres is unique because it is neither a completely rocky world nor an ice world, it’s a combination of both! This is something we have never observed in our solar system before. Also, the search for water on other planets is linked to the search for extraterrestrial life. Water is not only the basis for life here on earth, but is also believed to be the best substance to support complex ecosystems in general. I had never even heard of Ceres until today, and I am completely blown away by the amount we can still learn from our own solar system. Plus, I can’t wait to hear more about these ice volcanoes!

Want to learn more? Visit http://www.voanews.com/a/mht-nasa-spots-cryovolcano-on-ceres-dwarf-planet/3491325.html

Sept 5, 2016

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