Scientists believe they’ve detected water on the dwarf planet Ceres (which is also the largest asteroid in the solar system). Using the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, researchers have detected evidence of water in the form of vapor plumes escaping from two different regions, possibly from ice geysers on the planet’s surface. Never mind the implications of discovering water on distant planets; the discovery could also give researchers information about how Ceres formed, and ultimately how other planets formed as well.
Ceres is currently considered the largest object in the asteroid belt, where a “snowline” partition is thought to exist; inside the asteroid belt you have dry objects, while objects on the outer fringes are thought to be icy. The discovery of water on Ceres suggests more mixing occurred than originally thought. Scientists for over 30 years have speculated Ceres has had a substantial amount of water, and as recently as 1991, researchers found evidence of water in the form of hydroxide, though they were unable to confirm the findings in later observations.
Scientists are hoping to learn more about Ceres when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft goes into orbit around the dwarf planet in early 2015. Dawn previously visited the asteroid Vesta, which has an igneous surface and is covered with volcanic eruptions. The differences between the two has puzzled scientists for years, and the latest findings supports earlier models of migrating planets. Jupiter, for example, is theorized to have moved to its current position while mixing with materials from the outer and inner regions of the solar system. This mixing may have moved Ceres and Vesta far from where they were formed, Space.com said.
The real kicker is that scientists believe asteroids may be responsible for delivering some of the Earth’s water, like some magic space elixir.