Cryovolcanoes are a lot like volcanoes here on Earth, except they erupt with ice and – so far – only found on frozen worlds.
The Curious Case of Ceres’ Vanishing Ice Volcanoes
“NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is currently orbiting Ceres, the solar system’s innermost dwarf planet. Many weird and wonderful things have been discovered, but some of these findings have created new and perplexing mysteries. One such mystery is centered around Ceres’ ice volcanoes – or lack thereof. Ice volcanoes, or cryovolcanoes, are features that are thought to be common on the surfaces of cold bodies in the outer solar system, creating ice analogs of the volcanoes we have on Earth.”
Lonely Ice Volcano On Ceres May Have Once Had Company
“Ahuna Mons could simply be a one-of-a-kind feature. But new research by Sori and his colleagues suggests another possible answer: Ahuna Mons may have once had company, older cryovolcanoes that flattened out and disappeared over the eons via a process called ‘viscous relaxation.’ Viscous relaxation means that many solids on a planetary surface will flow, given enough time. Earth’s mountains don’t relax in an appreciable way, because they’re made of rock. But Ahuna Mons has a lot of water ice mixed in and is therefore a relaxation candidate, Sori said.”
Where is the Ice on Ceres? New NASA Dawn Findings
“At first glance, Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, may not look icy. Images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have revealed a dark, heavily cratered world whose brightest area is made of highly reflective salts — not ice. But newly published studies from Dawn scientists show two distinct lines of evidence for ice at or near the surface of the dwarf planet.”
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