Several bright spots were discovered on the dwarf planet Ceres by the Dawn spacecraft in 2015. The brightest cluster of spots (“Spot 5”) is located in an 80-kilometer (50 mi) crater called Occator. The largest and brightest component of the cluster is in the center of the crater, with dimmer spots located towards this crater’s eastern rim. To this day, scientists still have not yet figured out what exactly is in these crater. Continue reading for more interesting Ceres facts.
5. First Asteroid Discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi
Ceres was the first asteroid discovered, by Giuseppe Piazzi at Palermo on January 1, 1801. It was originally considered a planet, but was reclassified as an asteroid in the 1850s when many other objects in similar orbits were discovered.
4. May Have Internal Ocean of Liquid Water
Ceres appears to be differentiated into a rocky core and icy mantle, and may have a remnant internal ocean of liquid water under the layer of ice. The surface is probably a mixture of water ice and various hydrated minerals such as carbonates and clay.
3. Follows Orbit Between Mars and Jupiter
Ceres follows an orbit between Mars and Jupiter, within the asteroid belt, with a period of 4.6 Earth years. The orbit is moderately inclined (i = 10.6° compared to 7° for Mercury and 17° for Pluto) and moderately eccentric (e = 0.08 compared to 0.09 for Mars).
2. Venus, Mercury, Earth and Mars All Transit Ceres
Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars can all appear to cross the Sun, or transit it, from a vantage point on Ceres. The most common transits are those of Mercury, which usually happen every few years, most recently in 2006 and 2010. The most recent transit of Venus was in 1953, and the next will be in 2051; the corresponding dates are 1814 and 2081 for transits of Earth, and 767 and 2684 for transits of Mars.
1. Mass is Large Enough to Give it Spherical Shape
The mass of Ceres is large enough to give it a nearly spherical shape in hydrostatic equilibrium. Among Solar System bodies, Ceres is intermediate in size between the smaller Vesta and the larger Tethys. Its surface area is approximately the same as the land area of India or Argentina.