Asteroid Ceres: Astronomers Spotted Steam Coming From Largest Asteroid and Dwarf Planet in the Solar System

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By Jenalyn Villamarin | January 24, 2014 5:05 PM EST

Ceres, the largest asteroid and also the dwarf planet in the Solar Sytem, has been spotted with steam coming from its opposite sides. The European astronomers reported that they noticed the asteroid's double steam while making several observations using the Herschel Space Telescope between October 2012 and March 2013.  

In the Guardian report, researchers claim that the Sun's heat vaporizing the ice underneath the surface produced asteroid Ceres' steam. "Asteroids have been suggested, along with comets, as a possible source of the water on Earth. Our detection of water on Ceres makes it more plausible that Earth's water could have come from impacts from these bodies," stated Michael Küppers, a planetary scientist at the European Space Astronomy Centre in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

The Geek report offers another theory on the steam coming out of asteroid Ceres. The role of the alleged "cryovolcanoes" can supply the "small, pressurized outlet for expanding gasses." However, the preliminary heat source is normally just friction between the giant plates of ice found within the dwarf planet itself and not any input of the heat coming from the Sun.

"The observation boosts once-derided theories that billions of years ago, rocks carrying water and carbon molecules pounded the fledgling Earth, providing it with the ingredients essential for life," the University of Central Florida astrophysicists Humberto Campins and Christine Comfort also stated in a commentary. However, they warned that the Solar System's puzzle pieces do not fit perfectly.

More pieces are expected to be discovered when further observations are made on the asteroids. "Does Ceres have a sub-surface ocean? Or are the two sources of water just isolated pockets?" the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, which involved in the investigation, deliberated in a statement, according to the Sydney Morning Herald report.

Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi first recorded the Ceres in 1801 after the name of the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility. The asteroid measures 950 kilometres across and takes approximately four-and-a-half years to orbit around the Sun. It is expected that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) probe Dawn will reach Ceres after its mission to another asteroid Vesta and gather more information on the recent steam findings.

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Asteroid: NASA's Reactivated Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) Spots 'Potentially Hazardous' Asteroid - [READ]

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