In the ten years since its launch from Cape Canaveral, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has orbited the two largest worlds in the asteroid belt and overcome defective components that threatened to derail the mission on its 4 billion-mile voyage, discovering unexpectedly rich geologic tapestries suggesting both destinations have a watery past.
By tracking subtle changes in the motion of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, scientists have mapped the variations in Ceres’ gravity for the first time, providing clues to the dwarf planet’s internal structure. The new data suggest that Ceres has a weak interior, and that water and other light materials partially separated from rock during a heating phase early in its history.
The brightest area on Ceres, located in the mysterious Occator Crater, has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth, according to a new study from scientists on NASA’s Dawn mission. The results suggest that liquid water may have existed beneath the surface of Ceres in recent geological time.