The dwarf planet Ceres, named after the Roman goddess of growing plants and motherly love, lies in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is the largest object by far in the asteroid belt and contains about a third of the belt's total mass. Ceres is massive enough that, unlike its asteroid neighbors, gravity can pull it into a spherical shape. Dubbed a planet when it was discovered at the beginning of the 19th century, Ceres was subsequently considered an asteroid until 2006 when it was reclassified as a dwarf planet.
Not a whole lot is known about this dwarf planet as the best images obtained so far from the Hubble Space Telescope show a sphere with some indistinct surface features. Due to its distance from the Sun, Ceres may have a tenuous atmosphere and frost.
While no close-up observations of yet been made of Ceres itself , here it is rendered as a rather sterile, lunar-like world pockmarked with thousands of impact craters with the addition of surface water ice and hypothesized plumes of ice crystals from water geysers on its surface.
Copyright © Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.
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