Image: Ahuna Mons on Ceres

Image: Ahuna Mons on Ceres
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

This image, based on observations from NASA's Dawn spacecraft, shows the largest mountain on the dwarf planet Ceres.

Dawn was the to orbit an object in the between Mars and Jupiter, and spent time at both large asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres is one of just five recognised dwarf in the Solar System (Pluto being another). Dawn entered orbit around this rocky world on 6 March 2015, and studied its icy, cratered, uneven surface until it ran out of fuel in October of 2018.

One of the features spotted by the mission is shown here in this reconstructed perspective view: a mountain named Ahuna Mons. This mountain rises to an elevation of 4000 m at its peak—Europe's Mont Blanc on Earth would rise slightly above it (as measured from sea level) – and is marked by numerous bright streaks that run down its flanks. Scientists have determined that these marks are actually salt deposits left behind from the formation of Ahuna Mons, when plumes of saltwater and mud rose and erupted from within Ceres, puncturing the surface and creating the mountain seen here. While temperatures on Ceres are far colder than those on Earth, this mechanism is thought to be somewhat similar to the formation of volcanoes by terrestrial magma plumes.

More recently, a study of Dawn data led by ESA research fellow Ottaviano Ruesch and Antonio Genova (Sapienza Università di Roma), published in Nature Geoscience in June, suggests that a briny, muddy 'slurry' exists below Ceres' surface, surging upwards towards and through the crust to create Ahuna Mons. Another recent study, led by Javier Ruiz of Universidad Complutense de Madrid and published in Nature Astronomy in July, also indicates that the dwarf planet has a surprisingly dynamic geology.

Ceres was also the focus of an earlier study by ESA's Herschel space observatory, which detected water vapour around the dwarf planet. Published in Nature in 2014, the result provided a strong indication that Ceres has ice on or near its surface. Dawn confirmed Ceres' icy crust via in 2016, however, the contribution of the ice deposits to Ceres' exosphere turned out to be much lower than that inferred from the Herschel observations.

The perspective view depicted in this image uses enhanced-color combined images taken using blue (440 nm), green (750 nm), and infrared (960 nm) filters, with a resolution of 35 m/pixel. Ahuna Mons' elevation has been exaggerated by a factor of two. The width of the dome is approximately 20 km. The spacecraft's Framing Camera took the images from Dawn's low-altitude mapping orbit from an altitude of 385 km in August 2016.


Explore further

Gravitational data from Dawn suggests dome on Ceres is made of volcanic mud

More information: Ottaviano Ruesch et al. Slurry extrusion on Ceres from a convective mud-bearing mantle, Nature Geoscience (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-019-0378-7
Citation: Image: Ahuna Mons on Ceres (2019, July 29) retrieved 23 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-image-ahuna-mons-ceres.html
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Jul 29, 2019
Thought it would be nice to see Ahuna Mons in 3d, so i made a stereo image using screenshots of images taken by the Dawn spacecraft flyover video (here)

Ahuna Mons 3d Stereo Image

Jul 29, 2019
Late edit -- no special glasses are required to view the above image in 3d, for those don't know how to view it, just put your finger tip about 7 cm in front of your nose and focus your eyes on your finger with the stereo image in the background...

Jul 29, 2019
Here's the view zoomed in maximally (just before it starts looking pixelated)

Ahuna Mons zoom

Jul 29, 2019
Nicely done, sir!

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