After arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft revealed a bizarre world where ice used to flow and erupt like lava. In the last phase of the mission, which ended in 2018, Dawn’s orbit swept within 35 kilometers (22 miles) of Occator Crater, a 92-kilometer-wide feature dotted with bright deposits of sodium carbonate and other minerals. The mission team’s analysis of the data, published on Monday in a set of seven papers in three of Nature’s journals, paints the fullest picture yet of the history of Occator Crater and substantiates earlier suspicions that a reservoir of liquid water exists beneath the surface of Ceres. The extent of that supposedly watery region, however, remains unknown.
“This is the last set of papers that really present the mission data and provide the team’s best interpretation,” says Carol Raymond, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Dawn’s deputy principal investigator. “Now the data are out in the wild, and everybody will be able to take a look at them. I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot more in the future.”To read more, click here.