Ceres might be a dwarf planet, but it is dominated by a single feature. On Ceres is what astronomers thought to be a mountain. Now, however, the planet's iconic mountain might turn out to be a large ice volcano. This has been the conclusion arrived upon recently by its researchers.
Ceres is one of the larger asteroids in our Solar System's Asteroid Belt, which has been reclassified as a dwarf planet. Most of its features are rather stark, though one stands out in the planet's otherwise barren landscape. That is Ahuna Mons, which is a lonely mountain on Ceres. Or at least that's what scientists used to think.
Ever since its discovery by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, astronomers have been wondering how Ahuna Mons has been formed, according to Astronomy Magazine. Many have tried to find out how it was formed. Studies were conducted regarding tectonics, volcanoes and other such scenarios.
The most likely answer is that Ahuna Mons is an icy volcano. Such volcanoes are more common in the Solar System's outer planets' moons. However, it might turn out that such volcanoes also exist much closer to the Sun. Lead researcher Ottaviano Ruesch and his team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland came to this conclusion based on observations made on it.
The data from these observations came from the Dawn spacecraft, which approached and studied Ceres in 2015. Ahuna Mons has been classified as a volcano with a dome over it. Instead of its contents spewing out, it instead comes out slowly until it forms a dome. In the case of Ahuna Mons though, what comes out is a rather slushy form of ice than lava, as Nature reports.
Ceres has a surface temperature of -113 degrees Celsius, which is extremely cold. Ice there could then be hard as rocks here. What comes out of Ahuna Mons is a mixture of chloride and salt which then comes up as salty ice. While what might come out is ice, scientists think that there is an internal heat source that contributes to this. This is because the cryomagma came from below, suggesting that some heat mechanism is driving it upwards.
Ahuna Mons is about 4 kilometers in height, about half the height of Mount Everest. It is estimated to be about only a few million years old. The volcano then is quite young when compared to Ceres' age, which is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old.
Jeffrey Moore, planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California thinks that Ahura Mons might have been the result of the large impact created on Ceres. However, he does agree that the mountain remains a mystery that requires further research.
iTechPost also reports that our solar system might have a ninth planet that could impact it in the future.