What kind of asteroid is Ceres

Asteroid belt Dwarf planet Ceres could have subterranean ocean

Central research question: Are these deposits frozen residues of liquid that first melted due to the impact energy of the impact body and then frozen again? Or is there a larger underground reservoir from which fluid continually rises to the surface? The new data has now revealed that the frozen brine contains hydrohalite, a substance that is more abundant in marine ice. Because the substance on the surface of Ceres is very volatile, the researchers believe its occurrence to be something like the powder vapor on the muzzle of a firearm, i.e. a clear indication of recent activity.

Ceres could belong to the ocean worlds of the solar system

There are also other clues, such as the Ahuna Mons deposit, which is hundreds of kilometers away from Occator Crater. It too could be brine that has risen to the surface. These various observations suggest that there might be an entire underground layer of fluid. That would make Ceres a potential ocean world and place it in a row with icy moons such as the Jupiter moon Europa, the Saturn moon Enceladus, and the Neptune moon Triton.

However, there are important differences. Europe and Enceladus, for example, are regularly "kneaded" by the gravity of their planets, which causes them to warm up. At Ceres there is no such warming by the tides. In addition, there are hardly any craters on the surfaces of the two ice moons, probably because the ice sheets are in constant motion and so traces of impact are regularly removed. Ceres, on the other hand, has many old craters.

Ceres has similarities with Pluto

The scientists therefore believe that the dwarf planet is much more similar to another dwarf planet: Pluto. The largest object in the Kuiper Belt also has frozen ice sheets on its surface, but is extremely cold due to its great distance from the Sun and the larger planets. There could be chemical components in the lakes on both objects, some of which keep them liquid despite the lowest temperatures. At Ceres it also appears that the ocean contains many solid components such as rocks.

The researchers write that the reservoir could also be rich in organic molecules. This would also make Ceres a possible target in the search for extraterrestrial life, such as microorganisms.