Volcanoes rumble, fiery smithies, creating around them a landscape in explosive, effervescent glory, for the most part. Some are mountains made from ice, with water acting like their lava. These cryovalts were found on Pluto and several moons in our solar system, and a remarkable new study in science has sharply revealed that they also exist on the carnical planet of Ceres.
Hiding in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres passes through 945 kilometers (587 miles) and is about a third of the mass of the entire asteroid belt, making it the largest object in the region. Dawn, NASA’s spacecraft sent to investigate both the protoplanet Vesta and Ceres, has now committed the most incredible discovery to date.
Ceres’ volcanic activity and the composition of its cryomagne complement the geological diversity of the solar system, the authors say in their study.
Using images of the Dawn Framing Camera, a team of NASA scientists led by Ottaviano Ryush, a doctoral student at the Goddard Space Flight Center, analyzed the protrusions on the surface of a dwarf planet. Originally it was believed that it was a mountain named Ahuna Mons, they noticed that it was completely different from those around them.
Ahuna Mons, cryoval dome at Ceres. NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA
Its somewhat symmetrical character, and in its peak there are numerous depression pits. Using drawings and lines nearby, the team decided that this mountain was formed incredibly recently, geologically speaking, possibly for several hundred million years.
Having corrected any tectonic features of the mountain construction, the team came to the conclusion that it must have been extruded to the surface, very similar to how certain volcanic domes are formed on Earth. In fact, the crater at Mount St. Helens has a steadily growing dome of thick, viscous magmatic material, which is essentially a magma slowly pushed to the surface.
The Rueschs team is convinced that this is the same mechanism acting on Ceres, where magma consists of a viscous mixture of water, ice and chloride salt.
On Earth, magma itself rises through the bark, splitting it around her, as she does. At Ceres, the cryomagmatic system works somewhat differently. The authors suggest that the trajectories of material lifting can be provided by fractures created by a series of strokes.
It is important that in order for the material to become buoyant and rise up through the planetary body, this requires a temperature difference between the core and the surface.
The heat that emits volcanism on Earth is provided by the original heat left from its fire formation, and also by the radioactive heat generated by continuously damped unstable elements. Some bodies, such as the infernal, volcanic moon of Jupiter Io, are heated by the tide, causing a gravitational interaction between it, its host planet and other moons that generate the heat of friction within its core.
In the absence of a tidal power mechanism for Ceres, it must have an internal heat source, such as the Earth, but the team reluctantly speaks through what can consist of. However, they note that a high concentration of salt in Ceres will lower the temperature of water that ice melts, which will promote the formation of a water magmatic body on the surface.
A second scientific study adds credibility to this cryovolcanic theory, showing that liquid water exposed to a young impact crater was detected on the surface. This observation is the first and only direct detection of the H2O molecule on the Ceres surface, said lead author Jean-Philippe Combe, a remote sensing specialist at the Institute for the Fight against Bears, IFLScience said.
Using a spectrometer, its unique composition in the range from 1 to 10 million years old crater Oxo was confirmed by the spaceship “Dawn”. This suggests that Ceres has a mantle of water and ice, partially melted and partially solid, like ours, but from very different materials. Is this so, and any bound cryovalcanism still active today?
There may be movements of water-rich materials in the Oxo sub-surface, which is a common point with Ahuna Mons when it was active, adds Comb. Indeed, water played an important role in the evolution of Ceres in the past, much of the surface activity associated with water [today] has ceased, but not all.
The Ruesch team is not convinced that Ahuna Mons is still rumbling. Today it is most likely inactive, said Ryush in an interview with IFLScience. But nature often surprises us.
Hunting is now included for signs of modern ice eruptions.
Image in text: Ceres, with the crater Oxo, represented by a bright spot in the center. NASA / JPL-Caltech / Učka / MPS / DLR / IDA
False color map of the surface of Ceres. Are there any cryovolcanoes that we have not yet discovered? NASA / JPL-Caltech / Učka / MPS / DLR / IDA