Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
..
. 24/7 Space News .




EXO WORLDS
Herschel Telescope Detects Water on Dwarf Planet
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jan 23, 2014


Dwarf planet Ceres is located in the main asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, as illustrated in this artist's conception. Observations by the Herschel space observatory between 2011 and 2013 find that the dwarf planet has a thin water vapor atmosphere. This is the first unambiguous detection of water vapor around an object in the asteroid belt.

Scientists using the Herschel space observatory have made the first definitive detection of water vapor on the largest and roundest object in the asteroid belt, Ceres. Plumes of water vapor are thought to shoot up periodically from Ceres when portions of its icy surface warm slightly. Ceres is classified as a dwarf planet, a solar system body bigger than an asteroid and smaller than a planet.

Herschel is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with important NASA contributions.

"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 Kuppers of ESA in Spain, lead author of a paper in the journal Nature.

The results come at the right time for NASA's Dawn mission, which is on its way to Ceres now after spending more than a year orbiting the large asteroid Vesta. Dawn is scheduled to arrive at Ceres in the spring of 2015, where it will take the closest look ever at its surface.

"We've got a spacecraft on the way to Ceres, so we don't have to wait long before getting more context on this intriguing result, right from the source itself," said Carol Raymond, the deputy principal investigator for Dawn at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Dawn will map the geology and chemistry of the surface in high resolution, revealing the processes that drive the outgassing activity."

For the last century, Ceres was known as the largest asteroid in our solar system. But in 2006, the International Astronomical Union, the governing organization responsible for naming planetary objects, reclassified Ceres as a dwarf planet because of its large size. It is roughly 590 miles (950 kilometers) in diameter. When it first was spotted in 1801, astronomers thought it was a planet orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Later, other cosmic bodies with similar orbits were found, marking the discovery of our solar system's main belt of asteroids.

Scientists believe Ceres contains rock in its interior with a thick mantle of ice that, if melted, would amount to more fresh water than is present on all of Earth. The materials making up Ceres likely date from the first few million years of our solar system's existence and accumulated before the planets formed.

Until now, ice had been theorized to exist on Ceres but had not been detected conclusively. It took Herschel's far-infrared vision to see, finally, a clear spectral signature of the water vapor. But Herschel did not see water vapor every time it looked. While the telescope spied water vapor four different times, on one occasion there was no signature.

Here is what scientists think is happening: when Ceres swings through the part of its orbit that is closer to the sun, a portion of its icy surface becomes warm enough to cause water vapor to escape in plumes at a rate of about 6 kilograms (13 pounds) per second. When Ceres is in the colder part of its orbit, no water escapes.

The strength of the signal also varied over hours, weeks and months, because of the water vapor plumes rotating in and out of Herschel's views as the object spun on its axis. This enabled the scientists to localize the source of water to two darker spots on the surface of Ceres, previously seen by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes. The dark spots might be more likely to outgas because dark material warms faster than light material. When the Dawn spacecraft arrives at Ceres, it will be able to investigate these features.

The results are somewhat unexpected because comets, the icier cousins of asteroids, are known typically to sprout jets and plumes, while objects in the asteroid belt are not.

"The lines are becoming more and more blurred between comets and asteroids," said Seungwon Lee of JPL, who helped with the water vapor models along with Paul von Allmen, also of JPL. "We knew before about main belt asteroids that show comet-like activity, but this is the first detection of water vapor in an asteroid-like object."

The research is part of the Measurements of 11 Asteroids and Comets Using Herschel (MACH-11) program, which used Herschel to look at small bodies that have been or will be visited by spacecraft, including the targets of NASA's previous Deep Impact mission and upcoming Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex). Laurence O' Rourke of the European Space Agency is the principal investigator of the MACH-11 program.

.


Related Links
Herschel at ESA
Herschel at NASA
Dawn at JPL
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





UAV Payloads 2014, 24 - 25 June - London, UK
EXO WORLDS
'Dwarf planet' in deep space has water
Paris (AFP) Jan 22, 2014
Ceres, a tiny planet in the asteroid belt, spouts water vapour, a finding that strengthens theories that life on Earth was kickstarted by a bombardment of space rocks, scientists said Wednesday. European astronomers reported they saw vapour spewing geyser-like from the surface of Ceres, the biggest object in the asteroid belt lying between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres was first recorded in 18 ... read more


EXO WORLDS
NASA Seeks Partnership Opportunities For Commercial Lunar Landers

Chang'e-3 probe sets out on new missions

China's lunar probe observes stars, explores moon

China's moon rover performs first lunar probe

EXO WORLDS
Mystery Mars rock reveals unexpected chemical composition

Mysterious stone 'rawled up' to Mars Rover Opportunity

Oppy Encounters A Surprise At Solander Point

Dutch researcher says Earth food plants able to grow on Mars

EXO WORLDS
At Your Service: Orion Service Module Complete

Lawrence Livermore 'space cops' to help control traffic in space

NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to be Renamed for Neil Armstrong

NASA Tests Orion Spacecraft Parachute Jettison over Arizona

EXO WORLDS
Extra Time for Tiangong

Official: China's space policy open to world

China launches communications satellite for Bolivia

China's moon rover continues lunar survey after photographing lander

EXO WORLDS
Cygnus Work Under Way, Normal Station Operations Continue

Spaceflight, Nanoracks Partnership Launch CubeSat Customers Towards Historic ISS Deployment

Orbital's cargo ship arrives at space station

Obama Administration Extends ISS Until at Least 2024

EXO WORLDS
Turkish Telecoms Satellite to Launch From Baikonur Feb. 15

Russia's Soyuz Rocket to Get Video Cameras

NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Tests Dragon Parachute System

NASA's Commercial Crew Partners Aim to Capitalize, Expand on 2013 Successes in 2014

EXO WORLDS
ALMA Discovers a Formation Site of a Giant Planetary System

Herschel Telescope Detects Water on Dwarf Planet

Bright star reveals new exoplanet

'Dwarf planet' in deep space has water

EXO WORLDS
Smooth sailing: Rough surfaces that can reduce drag

CCNY Team Models Sudden Thickening of Complex Fluids

CCNY Team Models Sudden Thickening of Complex Fluids

ESA to develop satellite reentry technology




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement