Researchers at NASA have just released colorful new topographic maps of the dwarf planet Ceres, based on data gathered by the agency’s Dawn spacecraft.
“The craters we find on Ceres, in terms of their depth and diameter, are very similar to what we see on Dione and Tethys, two icy satellites of Saturn that are about the same size and density as Ceres,” said Dr Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, a geologist for the Dawn mission.
“The features are pretty consistent with an ice-rich crust,” he said.
The International Astronomical Union recently approved a batch of official names for some of the craters and other features on the dwarf planet.
The features include Occator, the crater containing Ceres’ famed bright spots.
Named after the Roman agriculture deity of harrowing, Occator has a diameter of 60 miles (90 km) and a depth of two miles (4 km).
A crater with bright material, unofficially named Spot 1, is now identified as Haulani.
Haulani, named after the Hawaiian plant goddess, has a diameter of about 20 miles (30 km).
Temperature data from Dawn’s spectrometer show that this crater seems to be colder than most of the territory around it.
A crater called Dantu, after the Ghanaian god associated with the planting of corn, is about 75 miles (120 km) across and three miles (5 km) deep. Crater Ezinu, named after the Sumerian goddess of grain, is about the same size.
Both are less than half the size of Kerwan, named after the Hopi spirit of sprouting maize, and Yalode, a crater named after the African Dahomey goddess worshipped by women at harvest rites.
“The impact craters Dantu and Ezinu are extremely deep, while the much larger impact basins Kerwan and Yalode exhibit much shallower depth, indicating increasing ice mobility with crater size and age,” said Dr Ralf Jaumann from the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, who is a Dawn science team member.
Almost directly south of Occator is Urvara, a crater named for the Indian and Iranian deity of plants and fields.
The crater is about 100 miles (160 km) wide and 3 miles (6 km) deep. It has a prominent central pointy peak that is two miles (3 km) high.