At 590 mi/950 km, Ceres is the smallest of all of the known dwarf planets.
It is located between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, in the asteroid belt and is the only one that is inside our solar system.
|Discovered By:||Giuseppe Piazzi 1st January 1801|
|Mass:||8.96 × 10^20 kg (0.01 Moons)|
|Orbit Distance:||413,700,000 km (2.8 AU)|
|Orbit Period:||1,680 days (4.6 years)|
Ceres is the closest of all of the defined dwarf planets to our sun. Ceres was originally discovered in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, an Italian astronomer.
At the time Piazzi classified Ceres as a planet, and that classification held for over 50 years. It was only later in 2006 that Ceres was reclassified as a dwarf planet. For many years, astronomers thought that Ceres might be an asteroid.
Due to its distance, very little information could be gathered about Ceres.
Like many of the celestial bodies, Ceres was named after the mythological Roman god of agriculture known as Ceres, or in Italian: Cerere. In Greek mythology, the character was called Demeter.
The original Italian name for Ceres was Cerere Ferdinandea but was shortened to Ceres due to objections from the scientific community.
The asteroid belt is huge, but mostly contains smaller asteroids. Ceres is large enough to be about 1/3 the mass of the entire asteroid belt.
It cannot be considered to be a planet because it shares its orbit with thousands of asteroids and would need to dominate its orbit to be a planet.
Ceres is so far away and dim that we cannot see it with the naked eye. However, in some situations, if the conditions are right, Ceres will complete its orbit every 4.6 Earth years and some say that they can see Ceres.
Scientists believe that Ceres has an icy inner mantle that surrounds a rocky core. The ice mantle may be as thick as 200 million cubic km and is made up of more water than we have on Earth.
The presence of water on Ceres makes it a candidate for whether life may exist on the dwarf planet, although further information makes this unlikely.
The unmanned spacecraft mission, Dawn, did a close flyby of Ceres in 2015. The spacecraft found that Ceres is heavily cratered and yet has bright spots.
Ceres doesn’t have an atmosphere and has frigid temperatures.
Looking at the dwarf planet, scientists see many of the formations that appear Earth-like and believe that Earth and Ceres may have been made from similar materials.
There were two mysterious bright spots of the Occator Crater that turned out to be many spots when Dawn got closer.
Occator’s center has a dome that is 2,000 ft/500 meters high in its center that’s covered with a bright material that is called Cerealia Facula.