Ceres (Dwarf Planet)


Ceres a G-type asteroid, minor-planet designation 1 Ceres, discovered on January 1, 1801, by Giuseppe Piazzi an Italian astronomer and named after the Roman goddess of the harvest, growing plants and motherly love, was on August 24, 2006, officially declared by the IAU to be a "dwarf planet." [1] [2] [3]

The diminutive orb is
located in the asteroid belt at an average distance of 413,832,587 kilometers (2.77 AU) from the Sun and with a diameter of about 950 kilometers (590 miles) is the smallest body in the new category, roughly a quarter the size of Earth's moon.

New studies would seem to indicate that Ceres has a rocky core covered by an icy mantle which could contain in frozen form more water (up to 200 million cubic kilometers) than the amount of fresh water found on Earth. Even so, with a transient atmosphere linked to solar activity/sublimation and a maximum surface temperature of -38 degrees Celsius the dwarf planet offers little hope for indigenous life. It does, however, due to the ready availability of ice from which fuel, oxygen and water can be easily derived offer
in the form of enclosed habitats possibilities for human colonization. [4]


[1] Ceres, at first thought to be a comet has been reclassified more than once. Listed as a planet in order to conform to Bode's law, a now failed hypothesis, it was reclassified as an asteroid in the 1850s.

[2] A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round shape), (c) has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit and (d) is not a satellite.

[3] The Dawn mission, a space probe launched by NASA in 2007 is now retired (November 1, 2018) and in an uncontrolled orbit around Ceres. The mission which began orbiting Vesta (4 Vesta) on July 16, 2011, successfully completed its 14 month Vesta survey in late 2012 and following a two and a half year journey, arrived at Ceres, its primary destination, the first Earth craft to visit a dwarf planet up close and personal.

[b] The stopover at Vesta
(the belts second most massive object and the brightest asteroid visible from Earth) revealed or confirmed a number of surprising and in some cases unique features: it has two enormous impact craters Rheasilvia and Veneneia, a mountain more than four times the height of Everest, a giant trough that dwarfs the Grand Canyon, is covered in a layer of dust, soil and broken rock called regolith and is structured like a rocky planet with an iron-nickel core, a silicate mantle, and an outer basaltic crust.

Further:

[c] It's likely (supported by Dawn) that the impact which created Rheasilvia produced the howardite-eucrite-diogenite (HED) achondrite meteorites found on Earth.

[d] It's likely (supported by Dawn) that
the mysterious bright spots on Ceres that had scientists baffled are highly reflective salt deposits indicating a possible sub-surface body of water.

[4] It's been suggested by some that Ceres would make an excellent base of operations for those [pioneers] that will eventually prospect and or mine the asteroid bel
t for raw materials—the need for which [offworld resources] is becoming increasingly evident as Earth's reserves steadily decline (many heavy precious metals, gold, silver, copper, indium and so forth will be exhausted in the not too distant future).

* The concept is not science fiction, it's real: a number of asteroids have already been visited, both in and out of the asteroid belt, and in some cases, such as when 162173 Ryugu a combination C and G-type asteroid (it has the qualities of both) was visited by the Japanese probe Hayabusa2, samples were extracted. The technology involved is still in its infancy, but we're learning: NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe, at present traveling with and studying 101955 Bennu (a potentially hazardous object), is scheduled (July 2020) to attempt capture of a sample of regolith for return to Earth, while China is designing a Ceres sample-return mission to take place during the coming decade.





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