Cold traps confirmed on Ceres: Research

Cold traps confirmed on Ceres

Astronomers have unveiled that many permanently shadowed regions and craters have been spotted by NASA’s Dawn space prove on dwarf planet Ceres. These regions as per the researchers are cold traps, where ice can collect over time.

Researcher Norbert Schorghofer from the University of Hawaii at Manoa said that Ceres is having sufficient amount of water to hold on water molecules. Also, the shadowed regions being found by Dawn are colder than most that exist on the moon or Mercury.

Though cold traps have been predicted in Ceres earlier as well, it is the first time they have been specifically identified. The researchers said that the largest cold trap identified on Ceres is present at the bottom of a crater 10 miles wide and around 40 miles south of Ceres’ North Pole.

Erwan Mazarico, also a Dawn guest investigator at Goddard, was of the view that the traps found on Ceres are cold enough at low latitudes, as otherwise, the permanently shadowed regions very close to the poles are cold enough to keep ice to be stable on the surface.

As per the computer simulations, one out of every 1,000 water molecules on Ceres ends up in a cold trap. If to add up all that then the dwarf planet would have measurable ice deposits in just 1,000 years.

The researchers have studied the northern hemisphere of Ceres. They have combined the images from the Dawn cameras so as to have an idea of the shape of the dwarf planet. The researchers have even designed a sophisticated computer model at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

This computer model has helped the researchers to know areas that receive direct sunlight and other conditions present on the dwarf planet. Direct sunlight does not reach Ceres’ permanently shadowed regions that are present along a section of crater.

But the researchers pointed out that these regions are able to receive indirect sunlight. The scientists said that if the temperature drops below negative 240 degrees Fahrenheit then the shadowed areas become cold traps.

In Ceres, there are many such cold traps. If all are put together then permanently shadowed regions on Ceres could easily occupy about 1,800 square kilometers of land, which forms to be not even 1% of the northern hemisphere’s surface area.

Scientists said that the situation on Ceres is more similar to the situation on Mercury. One of the similar points is that the shadowed regions on Mercury expand at the same fraction of the northern hemisphere.

Chris Russell, the Dawn mission's principal investigator, was of the view that Ceres might have been formed through a massive reservoir of water when compared to the moon and Mercury.

“While cold traps may provide surface deposits of water ice as have been seen at the moon and Mercury, Ceres may have been formed with a relatively greater reservoir of water”, mentioned Russell.

The research findings published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters suggest that Ceres might have a volatile-rich world that does not depend on current-day external sources. Overall, Ceres seems to be a more complex, geologically active world as its craters contains huge amount of carbonates having salts that are highly soluble.


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