Extensive water ice within Ceres’ aqueously altered regolith: Evidence from nuclear spectroscopy

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Science  15 Dec 2016:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6765

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The surface elemental composition of dwarf planet Ceres constrains its regolith ice content, aqueous alteration processes, and interior evolution. Using nuclear spectroscopy data acquired by NASA’s Dawn mission, we determined the concentrations of H, Fe, and K on Ceres. The data show that surface materials were processed by the action of water within the interior. The non-icy portion of Ceres’ C-bearing regolith contains similar amounts of H to aqueously altered carbonaceous chondrites, but less Fe. This allows for the possibility that Ceres experienced modest ice-rock fractionation, resulting in differences between surface and bulk composition. At mid-to-high latitudes, the regolith contains high concentrations of H, consistent with broad expanses of water ice, confirming theoretical predictions that ice can survive for billions of years just beneath the surface.

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