Astronomers say dwarf planet is 'ocean world,' possible harbor for life

Object is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Updated: August 14, 2020 - 3:33pm

A dwarf planet located in the rocky space of our solar system's asteroid belt harbors a subsurface "ocean" possibly capable of sustaining life, astronomers revealed this week. 

Ceres — the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — has a "liquid reservoir" underneath its surface that is at least regional and may be global, NASA scientists said in research published on Monday. 

That information came from a 2018 flyby of Ceres by NASA's Dawn space probe. That spacecraft revealed bright patches on part of the object's surface, indicating the presence of salt brine that emerged from within the planet and eventually evaporated. 

Researchers are interested in "quantifying the habitability potential of the deep brine reservoir," NASA planetary scientist Julie Castillo said this week. Water is considered one of the key ingredients for life as we know it. 

The Dawn spacecraft is currently in an uncontrolled orbit about Ceres, having exhausted its fuel supplies in late 2018. 

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