PLANETARY SCIENCE: Dawn arrives at Ceres: Exploration of a small, volatile-rich world

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Abstract

On 6 March 2015, Dawn arrived at Ceres to find a dark, desiccated surface punctuated by small, bright areas. Parts of Ceres' surface are heavily cratered, but the largest expected craters are absent. Ceres appears gravitationally relaxed at only the longest wavelengths, implying a mechanically strong lithosphere with a weaker deep interior. Ceres' dry exterior displays hydroxylated silicates, including ammoniated clays of endogenous origin. The possibility of abundant volatiles at depth is supported by geomorphologic features such as flat crater floors with pits, lobate flows of materials, and a singular mountain that appears to be an extrusive cryovolcanic dome. On one occasion, Ceres temporarily interacted with the solar wind, producing a bow shock accelerating electrons to energies of tens of kilovolts.

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