Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres has been considered successively as a planet, then an asteroid, and now a dwarf planet. But regardless of its name, it has never ceased to intrigue scientists.
In 2015, after a journey of seven and a half years, the US probe Dawn orbited this body in orbit between Mars and Jupiter.
With a diameter of about 950 km, Ceres represents the largest object in the asteroid belt and takes 4.61 Earth years to circle the Sun.
At the end of 2018, the Dawn probe, with power problems, stopped transmitting, but the researchers continue to analyze the images and data it collected, described this Monday, in seven studies published in the magazines Nature Astronomy, Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications.
One of the famous mysteries of Ceres is the presence of more than 130 luminous zones on the surface, most associated with impact craters.
And it is that in its final phase, Dawn orbited only 35 km from Ceres, focusing on Occator, one of the 20 million-year-old craters.
According to the authors of one of the studies, led by Carol Raymond of the California Institute of Technology, in the United States, a large reservoir of brine, an aqueous solution saturated with salt, would be hidden under the crater.
In another article, Maria Cristina De Sanctis from the National Institute of Astrophysics of Italy, and her colleagues point out the presence of hydrated sodium chloride in the largest bright area of the Occator crater.
For Maria Cristina De Sanctis, “these results reveal that there is water in a liquid state under the surface of the planet” and that Ceres is a “kind of oceanic world, like some moons of Saturn and Jupiter”.
“The material found in Ceres is very important in terms of astrobiology since we know that these minerals are all essential for the emergence of life,” he told AFP.