Dwarf Planet Ceres Spewing Water into Space

Findings from the retired Herschel telescope


It's a bit of cliche, to ask readers to imagine themselves standing on the surface of an alien world, surveying some odd or awesome landscape. Lakes of hydrocarbons and monsoons of sulfuric acid are just the beginning, as planet-hunters like the Kepler device find diamond planets and lonely giants to expand multi-dimensional the spectrum of planetary design. That said, the latest (and likely final) piece of news derived from the observations of Europe's now-retired Herschel telescope, begs for such a treatment: standing on the surface of Ceres, the largest asteroid and the closest dwarf planet to Earth, you could watch subterranean oceans boil.

Or, at least, that might be what you'd seew. Recent findings prove only that Ceres has water on or below its surface and that that water is being somehow ejected into space. One top theory as to how this might occur is laid out above: the heat of the Sun, unfiltered by an atmosphere, super-heats large bodies of water or ice, causing out-gassings of water and ice so large that they're visible from space. These plumes seem to be affected by the seasons as the dwarf planet moves through its orbit, lending support to the idea of sunlight as a major driver of these water jets.