Enigmatic Normal Faults on Ceres

Post by Kynan Hughson, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.

Since March of 2015 NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been actively exploring the main asteroid belt’s largest member and only dwarf planet in the inner solar system: Ceres. Situated around two fifths of the way between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, Ceres is gargantuan compared to its neighbors. With a mean diameter of ~946 km (approximately the width of the state of Texas) and a bulk density of ~2.16 g/cm3 it comprises around one third of the mass of the entire main belt. Dawn’s continuing examination of this unique object since March 2015 has revealed a geologically diverse world covered with geomorphological features common to both rocky inner solar system planets and icy outer solar system satellites (e.g. Bland et al., 2016; Schmidt et al., 2017; Fu et al., 2017). These observations have exacerbated Ceres’ refusal to be neatly categorized as either a rocky or icy planet.


Image 1: A rotating aerial view of Nar Sulcus (centered at approximately 79.9 °W, 41.9 °S). Note the two nearly perpendicular sets of fractures. In particular, note the imbricated blocks within the longer fracture set. The longer fracture set is approximately 45 km long, and the deepest valleys are ~400 m deep. This scene was created using a stereophotogrammetrically (SPG) derived elevation model (vertical resolution ~15 m) and high resolution (~35 m/pixel) Dawn framing camera mosaics (Roatsch et al., 2016a; Roatsch et al., 2016b), which are available on the Small Bodies Node of NASA’s Planetary Data System.



Cryovolcanic flows on Ceres

Post contributed by Dr. Katrin Krohn, German Aerospace Center, Institute of Planetary Research

The dwarf planet Ceres is a weakly differentiated body with a shell dominated by an ice-rock mixture and ammoniated phyllosilicates, which has a variety of flow features visible on its surface. Flow features are common features on planetary surfaces and they indicate the emplacement of viscous material. Many of the observed flows on Ceres originate from distinct sources within crater interiors and on crater flanks.


Image 1: LAMO FC mosaic of Haulani crater. A: Well-defined smooth lobes (LAMO FC21A0049392_16002071420F1F.IMG). B: Multiple flow stages on western crater flank (FC21A0046469_15350155540F1C.IMG).


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