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Guide to Ceres

Updated on June 12, 2014

Ceres

Ceres is a dwarf planet between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter in the Main Asteroid Belt. Those who have explored my lenses before know my style and might find this lens uncharacteristically short. If the reason interests you, then contact me.

Although a Mars mission is all over the space news right now, there are other robotic missions. One of which is the Dawn mission to explore at least two major asteroids. It has just left one of the big four asteroids, Vesta, and is now en route to the biggest, Ceres.

If you want to learn a little about how missions like Dawn are launched, there is a link provided below. The image shows the Dawn probe departing Vesta for Ceres.

News

Ceres has now joined the elite rank of worlds in the Solar System other than Earth that could harbor indigenous life (as opposed to human colonists). The other two worlds are Europa, a moon of Jupiter, and Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. We knew it had fresh ice in abundance but now we have found that it geysers water. This world is active.

This discovery may protect Ceres from being hollowed out by mining companies as will surely be the fate of boring asteroids in the Main Asteroid Belt and in the Kuiper Belt (the other asteroid belt).

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image is artist's impression from NASA

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size

Ceres is smaller than Earth's moon and smaller than Jupiter's big four moons. Ceres itself is one of the big four asteroids but the asteroids are in the minor leagues. That is why Ceres is termed a dwarf planet.

Photo source is Italian derivative work. Cerere is the Italian for Ceres.

size comparison

Ceres is the biggest of the Big Four Asteroids. No, they do not have their own collegiate conference games but perhaps someday.

Main Asteroid Belt

Ceres is one of the white dots.

Dawn

Mission trajectory.

French language used in graphic but the source is again NASA.

Ceres

Guide to Ceres

Update: This leaf used to be Guide to Ceres before it mysteriously disappeared. And this lens used to be called simply "Ceres". With the disappearance of that other site (which was never an echo site but had totally different material), this lens is now _The_ Guide to Ceres.

Guide to Ceres

Ceres is an asteroid not a planet despite being the biggest asteroid, despite having more fresh water (locked up in ice) than almost any other body in the Solar System, and despite being a spheroidal (round) globe. I suspect that when the Dawn probe arrives in Ceres orbit in 2015, that there may be calls to upgrade it to planet status. However, a main qualification for being certified a planet by the IAU is that the body in question has to sweep nearly clean its orbit of debris left over from the formation of the Solar System. The Main Asteroid Belt can hardly be said to be free of debris. If most of the rocks in the Main Asteroid Belt were dropped onto Ceres for accretion, then it could double it in size and qualify it for planethood. Of course, Ceres colonists would not appreciate having rocks dropped on them -- unless there was orderly delivery of rocks and dirt by space dump trucks. This would be a bonanza for Ceres colony farmers who would want as much dirt as the rest of the Solar System could spare. All that crushed rock left over from asteroid mining would be a hazard to navigation and this would solve two problems.

1. must clear space of hazards to navigation

2. Ceres farmers want dirt

Take it to Ceres. Problem solved. Money made and jobs created from farming that asteroid. Ceres would be one of the few places (perhaps the only place) where terraforming would pay for itself from the start rather than a prolonged expense and burden on investors and/or taxpayers before any profit was ever seen.

symbol for Ceres

Ceres is one of the few celestial bodies that is not officially a planet to have its own symbol. In fact it has several. The former symbol is the number 1 in a circle. Appropriately enough, the recognized symbol for Ceres looks like a question mark. A mystery.

Animation of Dawn Leaving Vesta and Arriving at Ceres

This JPL animation shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft leaving the giant asteroid Vesta and arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres.

Will it discover life there?

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      travelerme 4 years ago

      Ceresis actually the only Dwarf planet that is a Dwarf planet. Pluto and the others are plutoids because the are beyond the last planet planet.