- A NASA spacecraft discovered a saltwater ocean deep below the surface of Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
- New research shows that the shiny salt deposits on the surface of the Ceres are caused by water seeping up from the ground.
- Scientists say the Ceres may have once held an alien life, due to its recent geological activity, the presence of water, minerals that contain ingredients for life and possibly a time. Warm period in the past.
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A NASA spacecraft just discovered a hidden ocean in our solar system.
Dawn Agency̵7;s exploration orbits the dwarf planet Ceres, which sits inside the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, three years before running out of fuel in 2018. At one point, Dawn compressed 22 miles (35 km) on the world’s tiny surface. Scientists are still working on the data it collects, as it provides a close-up look at some of the bright areas on the Ceres they’ve scratched their heads for years.
Dawn helped the researchers know that those shiny spots were covered with a compound called sodium carbonate, made up of sodium, carbon and oxygen. That salty crust could come from the liquid evaporated on the Ceres’ surface.
But where the liquid came from remained a mystery until Monday, when a series of papers finally revealed that the salt water was percolated up to the dwarf planet’s surface from an underground reservoir about 25 miles (40 km) away. deep and hundreds of miles wide.
Carol Raymond, Dawn mission chief investigator, told Reuters: “This elevates Ceres to the status of ‘ocean world’.
That puts the dwarf planet in the group of Enceladus (an icy moon of Saturn) and Europa (an icy moon of Jupiter) – other worlds with subsurface oceans. Like them, Ceres is now a candidate for alien life.
Maria Cristina De Sanctis, a researcher at the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Rome, told The Guardian: “The material found on the Ceres is extremely important biologically astrophysically. “We know that these minerals are all necessary for the appearance of life.”
Ceres’ ocean may be a relic of a warmer era
The bright areas that Dawn studied are inside the craters of Ceres’s Occator – the salt mines named Cerealia Facula and Vinalia Faculae. They are only 2 million years old, and the Dawn researchers think their geological creation is still ongoing.
But the forces that allowed Enceladus and Europa to maintain their oceans were not the same as the Ceres. The remaining two ocean worlds feel a strong gravitational pull from their planets: As they orbit Saturn and Jupiter, those giant celestial bodies stretch and compress the moons, creating friction. heats the moons from within.
But in Ceres’s case, the asteroid effect could play a role.
“For the large mine in Cerealia Facula, most of the salt is supplied from a muddy area just below the surface that was melted by the crater formation about 20 million years ago,” Raymond said in the press. NASA liberated. “The impact heat decreases after a few million years; however, the impact also creates large cracks that can reach deep, long-lasting aquifers, allowing salt water to continue seeping into the surface.”
In other words, the asteroid effects may have kept the dwarf planet warm enough for the short time that liquid water existed below its surface. Scientists believe that the salty underground water they discovered through Dawn could be a remnant of a global ocean that froze as the Ceres cools.
In the short time the conditions were warm enough, life may have arisen.
“The probability of finding life in another world continues to increase,” said Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator on Twitter. “The Ceres is the latest evidence that our solar system is filled with ancient habitable environments.”