Water vapor traces were detected in November 2012 by Herschel Space Telescope, from ESA, on the surface of Ceres.
With 950 km in diameter, Ceres is the smallest dwarf planet in our solar system, but the biggest space object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Released in 2007, the Dawn spacecraft of NASA revealed in January 2015 strange white spots on the surface of Ceres. In gradual descent toward the dwarf planet, Dawn will spend from 46,000 km, altitude of revelation the white spots, to 375 km, its lowest altitude at the end of the mission in December 2015.
Bright spots on Ceres photographed by the Dawn probe on 6 June 2015 - Doc. NASA / JPL Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA
Ceres, another clearer picture and more precise (1 pixel = 140 meters) taken in September 2015 - Doc. NASA / JPL Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA
Image analysis will show the largest craters and a large conical mountain, called Ahuna Mons.
This is one of many bright spots intriguing the scientists since the early observations; it is supposed to be a great cryovolcano, a "cold volcano", which stretches over 17 km and dominates the surrounding land of 4,000 meters ... it would be older than a hundred million years.
Instead of spitting lava, as effusive volcanoes, Ahuna eject actually ice, which gradually formed the dome with smooth, shiny walls.
Take a flight over dwarf planet Ceres in this video made with pictures from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. The simulated flyover Was Made by the Mission's camera team at Germany's national aeronautics and space research center (DLR).
A second mystery : by modeling the asteroid collisions that would have occurred during the 4.5 billion years of history of Ceres, the scientists conclude that the dwarf planet should have 10-15 craters over 400 km wide and at least 40 of over 100 km.
But the observations by the Dawn spacecraft show only six craters over 100 km and less than 280 km wide. The explanation of erosion craters come from the structure of the planet : the top layers of Ceres contain ice mixed with salt, likely to "relax with the times" and to soften the reliefs. The internal heat released shortly after the formation of the planet would have helped the ice in surface to erase the impacts.
Reconstituted view of the "cryovolcano" Ahuna Mons - Doc. NASA / JPL Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA
The scientific interest of Ceres has strengthened since the Dawn probe joined her, and NASA has just extend the mission around the dwarf planet rather than sending it to another asteroid.
- Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory – Dawn – Ceres' geological activity, ice revealed in new research – 01.09.2016
- Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory – Dawn – The case of the missing Ceres craters – 26.07.2016
- Notre planète : Découverte de mystérieuses taches lumineuses à la surface de la planète naine Cérès. fév.2015 / fév.2016
- L'OBS – les cratères disparus, le deuxième mystère de Cérès.
- Futura-Sciences : l'Europe ira-t-elle se poser sur Cérès ?