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Nature. 2014 Jan 23;505(7484):525-7. doi: 10.1038/nature12918.

Localized sources of water vapour on the dwarf planet (1) Ceres.

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European Space Agency, European Space Astronomy Centre, PO Box 78, Villanueva de la Cañada 28691, Spain.
Laboratoire d'études spatiales et d'instrumentation en astrophysique, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), Université Paris-Diderot, 5 Place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, California 91011, USA.
1] European Space Agency, European Space Astronomy Centre, PO Box 78, Villanueva de la Cañada 28691, Spain [2] Institut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calcul des Éphémérides, Observatoire de Paris, Unité Mixte de Recherche (UMR) 8028, CNRS, 77 Avenue Denfert Rochereau, 75014 Paris, France.
Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik (MPE), Giessenbachstrasse 1, 85748 Garching, Germany.


The 'snowline' conventionally divides Solar System objects into dry bodies, ranging out to the main asteroid belt, and icy bodies beyond the belt. Models suggest that some of the icy bodies may have migrated into the asteroid belt. Recent observations indicate the presence of water ice on the surface of some asteroids, with sublimation a potential reason for the dust activity observed on others. Hydrated minerals have been found on the surface of the largest object in the asteroid belt, the dwarf planet (1) Ceres, which is thought to be differentiated into a silicate core with an icy mantle. The presence of water vapour around Ceres was suggested by a marginal detection of the photodissociation product of water, hydroxyl (ref. 12), but could not be confirmed by later, more sensitive observations. Here we report the detection of water vapour around Ceres, with at least 10(26) molecules being produced per second, originating from localized sources that seem to be linked to mid-latitude regions on the surface. The water evaporation could be due to comet-like sublimation or to cryo-volcanism, in which volcanoes erupt volatiles such as water instead of molten rocks.

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