Basic Astronomy

Confirmation of water around dwarf planet Ceres

23 January 2014: European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory has confirmed the sign of water vapor around the dwarf planet Ceres. It is the first clear detection of water vapor in the object around the asteroid belt. It is also one of the few bodies in the solar system which hold this property.

The surface of Ceres as observed by Hubble Space Telescope. (Image Credit: NASA / ESA / J. Parker (SWRI) & others)

With the diameter of 950 kms (650 miles) Ceres is the largest object around the asteroid belt between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is also spherical in shape and belongs to the category dwarf planet like Pluto.

Scientists are suspecting for long time that Ceres may contain water vapour but they have no clear evidence for the conclusion. This is the first clear evidence of water in Ceres and it concludes that Ceres contains ice layer around its surface.

Astronomers were able to observe that almost all the water vapour was coming from the two spots of the surface of the Ceres. These two water vapour emitting region are about 5% darker than average brightness of Ceres. This region are able to absorb more sunlight and therefore they are likely the warmest region in Ceres.

The discovery was reported in the journal Nature. 'Water has been detected in the asteroid belt for the first time, and contains the proof that Ceres has an icy surface and an atmosphere around it,' says Michael Kuppers of ESA's European Space Astronomy Centre in Spain, lead author of the paper.

(Page Editor: Dusmantra Patra)

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