Researchers have given Dwarf Planet Ceres the status of an “Ocean World”. The scientists have analyzed the data collected by NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft and published the findings as a series of papers in the journals Nature Astronomy, Nature Communication and Nature Geoscience.
i.Studies suggest the presence of briny liquid water (saline) underneath Ceres’s surface.
ii.The findings are crucial since the ocean worlds may support life.
iii.The scientists in the paper have highlighted that an ocean world in Ceres was not expected, since Ceres is far away from the Sun and is too small to have radioactive materials to keep oceans liquid for most of Ceres’s history.
i.The dwarf planet lies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, it was classified as a dwarf planet in 2006.
ii.Ceres was first spotted by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801, and was assumed as the missing planet between Mars and Jupiter.
iii.Ceres is the first dwarf planet to be orbited by a spacecraft. In 2015 NASA’s Dawn spacecraft reached Ceres to study its surface, composition and history.
Reasons for studying CERES:
i.Scientists are interested in the dwarf planet as it hosts the possibility of having water.
ii.Studying about Ceres will also give an insight about the formation of the Solar system, since Ceres it is considered to be a fossil from that time.
i.The Dawn mission was launched by NASA in 2007 to study two massive bodies in the main asteroid belt, Vesta is rocky whereas Ceres is icy.
ii.The DAWN went into the orbit around Ceres and collected data about it. The mission ended in 2018.
There are five official dwarf planets in the solar system. They are Pluto, Eris, Makemake, Haumea and Ceres (in order of size). The most famous dwarf planet being Pluto, which was downgraded from classification of Planet in 2006. The criterias are set by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Criteria to be called as dwarf planet:
i.The body should orbit around the Sun.
ii.It should not be a moon.
iii.It should not have cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit (i.e it should not be the dominant body in its orbit around the Sun, which clearly differentiates a planet from a dwarf planet).
iv.Should have enough mass for its gravity to pull it into a roughly spherical shape.
There are other dwarf planets and moons in the solar system where oceans exist which includes the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.
i.The latest claimant for a dwarf planet is Hygeia, which was so far considered as an asteroid.
ii.In 2019, using observations made through the European Space Organisation’s SPHERE instrument at the Very Large Telescope (VLT), Scientists are coming to a conclusion that Hygeia may be a Dwarf Planet, since it satisfies all the criteria set for a dwarf planet.