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Dwarf planet Ceres is flush with ice, NASA studies show

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The dwarf planet Ceres, an enigmatic rocky body inhabiting the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is rich with ice just beneath its dark surface, scientists said on Thursday in research that may shed light on the early history of the solar system.

The discovery, reported in a pair of studies published in the journals Science and Nature Astronomy, could bolster fledgling commercial endeavors to mine asteroids for water and other resources for robotic and eventual human expeditions beyond the moon.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Ceres, the largest of thousands of rocky bodies located in the main asteroid belt, since March 2015 following 14-month study of Vesta, the second-largest object in the asteroid belt.

The studies show that Ceres is about 10 percent water, now frozen into ice, according to physicist Thomas Prettyman of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, one of the researchers.

Examining the makeup of solar system objects like Ceres provides insight into how the solar system formed. Compared to dry Vesta, Ceres is more like Enceladus and Europa, icy moons of the giant gas planets Saturn and Jupiter respectively, than Earth and the other terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus and Mars, Prettyman added.

Scientists are debating if Ceres hides a briny liquid ocean, a prospect that may put the dwarf planet on the growing list of worlds beyond the solar system that may be suitable for life, said Dawn deputy lead scientist Carol Raymond of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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“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 in a statement.

The finding strengthens the case for the presence of near-surface water ice on other bodies in the main asteroid belt, Prettyman said.

Information collected by Dawn showed that Ceres, unlike Vesta, has been using water to create minerals. Scientists combine mineralogical data with computer models to learn about its interior.

“Liquid water had to be in the interior of Ceres in order for us to see what’s on the surface,” Prettyman told a news conference at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Walmart got a $2.2 billion tax cut — now it’s laying off workers

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Walmart announced it will lay off hundreds of workers in North Carolina despite receiving billions in tax cuts that the Republican Party and President Trump claimed would spur job growth.

The giant retailer will lay off about 570 employees and close its corporate office near the Charlotte airport, despite signing a 12-year lease just four years earlier, the Charlotte Business Journal reported.

The work done at the Charlotte facility will be outsourced to a firm in Arkansas, according to the report.

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Amazon, Google and Facebook warrant antitrust scrutiny for many reasons – not just because they’re large

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There’s a growing chorus of U.S. politicians, antitrust scholars and consumer watchdogs calling for stricter antitrust treatment of Amazon, Google, Facebook and other tech giants. Some even say they should be broken up.

Most recently, U.S. lawmakers launched a sweeping review to determine if these companies have become so big and powerful that they are stifling competition and harming consumers, while federal regulators are also gearing up to take action.

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Hacker used $35 computer to steal restricted NASA data

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A hacker used a tiny Raspberry Pi computer to infiltrate NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory network, stealing sensitive data and forcing the temporary disconnection of space-flight systems, the agency has revealed.

The April 2018 attack went undetected for nearly a year, according to an audit report issued on June 18, and an investigation is still underway to find the culprit.

A Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized device sold for about $35 that plugs into home televisions and is used mainly to teach coding to children and promote computing in developing countries.

Prior to detection, the attacker was able to exfiltrate 23 files amounting to approximately 500 megabytes of data, the report from NASA's Office of inspector General said.

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