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Space Science

Water Plume Detected At Dwarf Planet Ceres 66

astroengine writes "Astronomers analyzing data from the now defunct Herschel infrared space observatory have made a huge discovery deep inside the asteroid belt. Dwarf planet Ceres, the largest body in the region, is generating plumes of water vapor. 'This is the first time water vapor has been unequivocally detected on Ceres or any other object in the asteroid belt and provides proof that Ceres has an icy surface and an atmosphere,' said Michael Küppers of the European Space Agency in Spain and lead author of a paper published today (Jan. 22) in the journal Nature."
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Water Plume Detected At Dwarf Planet Ceres

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  • by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @06:12PM (#46040129)

    But on the defense side: anyone with enough technology/experience to be able to cross interstellar space with the idea of fetching something (as opposed to colonization, where a desperate enough group could wing it) would have enough technology to wipe us off the face of the planet so quickly that we would have no chance. But the human race being obliterated by orbital bombardment does not make for entertaining cinema.

    Anyone with enough technology/experience to be able to cross interstellar space would surely find a water source in their own solar system. It's hard to believe that life exists on all of these other worlds in other star systems, but icy comets don't.

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @08:28PM (#46041585) Journal

    At Ceres' current location and with the sun's current intensity ice cannot long persist on the surface of a body at this location in the solar system. It would sublimate to gas, and with a lack of gravity be blown away by the solar wind (as seen by the fine article). With infall friction, natural radioactive decay and so on, such a body would have to have formed fairly early in the history of our solar system, begun freezing from the outside in, and then accumulated on its icy crust enough dusty concretion to shield the water below from the sun. It would have to start with a lot more water than is there now - perhaps twice as much. This would have to have happened fairly quickly in geological terms, in a region where the future minor planet is being pulled this way and that by other accumulating bodies - being threatened with destruction quite frequently. Most of it would have to happen when the early system was still shrouded with the mineral dust that would become the rocky inner planets. It would have to survive the sort of pummeling that pockmarked the moon. Otherwise over billions of years the surface water would just be gone.

    That it formed with this much water is remarkable. That it persists is a miracle.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats