Do you ever wonder what is out there in the black hole of space? One of those mysterious things floating around out there is the Dwarf planet Ceres. We will learn about how Ceres came to be part of our history books. We will learn what makes it unique from other dwarf planets in our solar system. And we will find out what is hiding just under the surface. Here are 15 stunning facts about the Dwarf Planet Ceres.
Facts about Ceres:
- Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt. The asteroid belt is part of our inner solar system and contains millions of small irregular-shaped asteroids and meteors. The asteroid belt is made up of rock and metal and is shaped like a giant disk. Ceres is the biggest object in the asteroid belt making up one third of the total mass.
- Ceres was the first object considered to be an asteroid. In 1801, Italian astronomer and mathematician Giuseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres. Piazzi was studying the stars when he spotted an oddly round object orbiting in the asteroid belt. Ceres was initially declared to be a new planet, but was later reclassified as an asteroid.
- Ceres was classified as a planet for half a century. Because of the round shape, Giuseppe assumed it was a planet. It stayed that way from 1801 until the 1850s when it was demoted with the discovery of the main asteroid belt.
- Ceres officially became a dwarf planet in 2006. Ceres was just a big asteroid floating around the asteroid belt until 2006. In August of that year the International Astronomical Union (IAU) established new standards for an object to be defined as a planet. Ceres was upgraded from asteroid to dwarf planet and at the same time Pluto was demoted from being a classical planet to a dwarf planet
- It is the smallest dwarf planet. Even though Ceres is the biggest object in the asteroid belt, it doesn’t mean that it is big. In fact, Ceres is the smallest dwarf planet out of the 5 dwarf planets. Ceres’ radius is 296 miles which makes Ceres smaller than our moon. If you were to compare the size of Ceres to the size of earth, you could say that Earth is a quarter and Ceres is a seed.
- Ceres is located between Mars and Jupiter. Mars and Jupiter are well-known planets in our solar system. The asteroid belt and Ceres are located right in the middle of the two planets. Ceres follows closer with the orbit of Mars than it does with Jupiter.
- It was named after the goddess of agriculture. The name Ceres comes from the Goddess of corn and harvest. Giuseppe named the planet after spotting the small craters and associating them with agricultural deities.
- Ceres was the very first dwarf planet to be visited by NASA. On March 6, 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft became the first probe to orbit a dwarf planet. Dawn beat out NASA’s New Horizons mission before it got to Pluto on July 14, 2015.
- It takes Ceres 4.6 years to go around the sun. If we are thinking Earth years, Ceres takes 1,682 Earth days, or 4.6 Earth years to complete its orbit around the sun. Ceres is the closest dwarf planet to the sun.
- Ceres is the only dwarf planet that doesn’t have a moon. While some of the dwarf planets have more than one moon, Ceres is the only dwarf that has no moons at all. Ceres does not have any satellites larger than about 1 to 2 kilometers in diameter.
- Ceres may have once had a subsurface ocean. The Dawn space probe spent years orbiting Ceres, mapping out every single detail of the surface. They found that the surface of the small planet was a mixture of ice and clay. They believe that under neither this clay layer there is an ice layer surrounding the entire core of Ceres. This supports the idea of this planet once being home to large amounts of water. Ceres might actually hold the largest water reservoir in the inner solar system other than the Earth.
- The surface of the planet is riddled with mysterious bright spots. These Cererian bright spots are very visible from the images taken from the Dawn space probe. They are so bright (compared to the darkness of the planet) that they appears to glow. This glowing is believed to be salt deposits that were trapped on the surface in a crater.
- Ceres has a giant mountain called Ahuna Mons. On the surface of Ceres, there are mostly just smaller craters. But there is a large mountain that stands 4 miles (6 km) high — a bit shorter than Mt. Everest, which stands at 5.49 miles (8.83 km). The mountain is Ahuna Mons after the traditional post-harvest festival Ahuna of the Sumi Naga people of India. Researchers believe the mountain was formed as the result of a plume of brine and rocks trying to extrude through the surface of Ceres.
- The dwarf planet is a popular destination in fiction. In Garrett P. Serviss’ 1989 novel Edison’s Conquest of Mars, a quasi-sequel to the H.G. Wells classic, the Martians from The War of the Worlds are engaged in a war with giant beings from Ceres. Ceres gets mentions in dozens of novels from The Doomsday Effect (1986) by Thomas Wren, to S. M. Stirling’s Draka novel The Stone Dogs (1990) to James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes (2011). The planet also appears in popular video games like Descent, Destiny and the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Ceres also serves as the backdrop for SyFy’s The Expanse based on the series of novels of the same name by James S. A. Corey.
- Ceres could support life. The Dawn spacecraft found evidence of organic compounds on the dwarf planet. And NASA researchers have stated that the planet is geologically alive. This raises the possibility that Ceres was once a habitable world—and might still be.
Now that we have learned 15 facts about Ceres, we can appreciate the small planet and all the wonders that surround it. Ceres, along with a lot of space, is such a fascinating mystery. We do not yet know everything there is to know about this dwarf planet. Through time and research, we can uncover vast amounts of information. Then, we will be able to see truly what is underneath the surface.
If you liked these 15 facts about Ceres, try 15 Facts about Eris.
Also, go ahead and share some interesting and fun facts about Ceres that we might have missed below in the comments.