Thursday, January 23, 2014

Unlikely But True

So, the Herschel telescope has been busily scanning the skies. And scientists turned it to look at Ceres.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt and is classed as a dwarf planet. It's still not that big - a bit under a third of the size of the Moon. Science fiction writers have often cited Ceres as a good place to put a base for exploration and mining of the asteroid belt.

It may be a better piece of real estate than we thought. Ceres has been assumed to be a rockball, like the moon, but Herschel has shown otherwise. The telescope has detected plumes spewing from Ceres.

Plumes of water vapor.

Not only do scientists think there is water on Ceres...they think there is a lot of water on Ceres. Possibly more than the amount of fresh water on Earth. It's mostly in the form of ice, of course.

The Dawn probe will arrive at Ceres in March or April of 2015 and then we'll find out a lot more about this intriguing little world, but if it really has a lot of water...asteroid mining in this system just became a lot more feasible.