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Ice is everywhere on dwarf planet Ceres

Staff Writer | December 20, 2016
New studies using data from NASA's Dawn spacecraft suggest that the largest body in the main asteroid belt has ice.
Water and life   Data collected by GRaND
Early images from Dawn didn't show evidence of ice on Ceres, but further examination suggests that ice is on the surface, or at least near the surface.

Carol Raymond, the co-principal investigator, said ice has been on the surface of Ceres throughout the history of the solar system.

"By finding bodies that were water-rich in the distant past, we can discover clues as to where life may have existed in the early solar system," Raymond said.

The new study suggests that ice isn't found deep within Ceres.

"It's everywhere, and nearer to the surface with higher latitudes," said Thomas Prettyman, principal investigator of Dawn's gamma ray and neutron detector (GRaND).

Data collected by GRaND found that ice on Ceres isn't in a solid layer, but is more of a porous mixture of rocky materials where ice fills the pores. It makes up about 10 per cent of the mixture.

"These results confirm predictions made nearly three decades ago that ice can survive for billions of years just beneath the surface of Ceres," Prettyman said. "The evidence strengthens the case for the presence of near-surface water ice on other main belt asteroids."

Other evidence supporting the existence of ice on Ceres is the concentration of hydrogen, iron, potassium and carbon, scientists said.