Thursday, January 23, 2014

Water Vapor Found in 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, dwarf planet Ceres.

"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 K├╝ppers of ESA in Spain, lead author of a paper in the journal Nature.

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An artist's concept of Ceres with vaporous jets in the asteroid belt. [Larger image

Herschel is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with important NASA contributions. Data from the infrared observatory suggest that plumes of water vapor shoot up from Ceres when portions of its icy surface warm slightly.

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.

More - Link >>> http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/22jan_ceres/

Source: NASA Science News.

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