Rivkin, Andrew Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, Maryland.
Last reviewed:November 2019
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- Discovery of Ceres
- Understanding prior to the Dawn mission
- Findings from Dawn
- Unresolved questions
- Ongoing activity
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. As an astronomical body, Ceres contains sufficient mass for gravitation to have pulled it into a round shape, in contrast to lumpy, irregularly shaped asteroids. This characteristic establishes Ceres as a dwarf planet, the only one located in the inner solar system. In further distinction from rocky, metallic asteroids, Ceres likely has a substantial amount of ice in its interior. Calculations suggest that this interior ice remained liquid for long geological periods. Researchers have identified numerous potential "cryovolcanoes," containing magmas of water rather than rock, which may be responsible for bringing minerals formed in the Cereian interior to its surface, for instance, as patches of brightly colored carbonate minerals. Otherwise, Ceres has a dark appearance similar to so-called G-type asteroids (Fig. 1). See also: Asteroid; Carbonate minerals; Gravitation; Magma; Planet; Solar system; Volcano
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