Dwarf planet Ceres most likely formed in the outer solar system

(ORDO NEWS) — Trying to understand why the hazy exosphere of Ceres , a dwarf planet located in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, contains ammonia, scientists resorted to computer simulations that showed that Ceres formed outside the orbit of Saturn , and then migrated into the asteroid belt.

Distance is an important factor

The location of a cosmic body in the solar system determines the degree of influence of the Sun on it. For example, comets grow tails as they approach a star. But if a larger body moves from the outer solar system to the inner one, then the consequences will be much more global.

The authors of a new study trying to understand the unusual composition of Ceres’ thin atmosphere have found that the dwarf planet likely originated in the outer solar system and then was moved inward.

This may be due to the fact that the young solar system was an unstable place: the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn competed for space, ice giants such as Uranus and Neptune were pushed outward or even flew out of the solar system, and smaller bodies, falling under the influence of gravitational forces, scattered in different directions, like billiard balls on the table.

In the scientific journal Icarus, a team of scientists explains the intricacies of using computer simulations to work on the theory that Ceres did not form where it is today.

Ceres and its birthplace

According to data obtained during the NASA Dawn mission , there is quite a lot of ammonia in the atmosphere of Ceres, the appearance of which is provided by the heat of sunlight. This fog, which saturates the atmosphere, rises from below the surface, and is actually a mixture of ammonia and water.

In addition, some of Ceres’ impact craters have deposits of water ice, but the asteroid belt bodies are generally devoid of it. They are dry and dusty. And that is why scientists wanted to find out if Ceres could have formed elsewhere.

This is where these complex computer models came into being. The team began by assuming that Ceres itself was a planetesimal chunks of rock, gas and dust stuck together that were the building blocks of larger bodies.

Dwarf planet Ceres most likely formed in the outer solar system 2
Ceres and the bright areas of Occator crater. One of the last photos given to Dawn before the craft completed its mission. The picture was taken on September 1, 2018, when Dawn is at an altitude of 3,770 kilometers

“Our simulations showed that the process of formation of the largest planet in the solar system [Jupiter] was very turbulent, accompanied by frequent collisions between the precursors of Uranus and Neptune, planets ejected from the system, and even intrusions into the inner region of planets with masses more than three times the mass of the Earth.

Said Rafael Ribeiro de Souza, lead author of the study and planetary scientist at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. – In addition, a strong gravitational disturbance “scattered” objects similar to Ceres everywhere . Some may well have reached the asteroid belt and acquired stable orbits to survive other events.”

In addition to this discovery, the team’s simulations also showed that at least 3,600 Ceres-like objects existed in the early solar system outside the orbit of Saturn. Statistically, this raises the chances that Ceres formed in the outer solar system and was forced inward by all this chaos.

But the most important thing in this study is that the chemical signatures confirm the fidelity of the computer model. Ceres is too similar to objects from the outer solar system, and its origin in the asteroid belt seems extremely unlikely.


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