Sign of Life? Vapor Rises on Dwarf Planet
Find suggests Ceres has huge subsurface ocean
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2014 11:45 PM CST
Updated Jan 23, 2014 12:35 AM CST
This artist's rendering shows water plumes spewing from the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres.   (AP Photo/ IMCCE, Paris Observatory, CNRS)

(Newser) – There may be a new contender for the likeliest place to host life elsewhere in our solar system—and it's not a planet or a moon. Astronomers have spotted water vapor from Ceres, classed as both the smallest dwarf planet and largest asteroid, marking the first time water has been confirmed in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, reports the Los Angeles Times. The find suggests that internal energy is heating water from Ceres' interior, meaning there could also be a subsurface ocean capable of hosting life.

"This is what you might call the 'smoking gun,'" the chief of the Planetary Science Institute tells NBC. "The implications could be huge for the future of astrobiology and planetary exploration." The find "raises the possibility that Ceres could replace Europa as the prime target for planetary investigation," he says. "It's going to upend the cart a bit, but that's science." The vapor is steaming off Ceres at a rate so high that scientists believe it could contain more fresh water than Earth, backing up the theory that our planet's water was brought by asteroids. Astronomers will be able to take a closer look when NASA's Dawn spacecraft reaches Ceres next spring.

More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Vapor Rising From Dwarf Planet Could Signal Life is...
3%
81%
1%
11%
1%
3%
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Comments
Showing 3 of 27 comments
rickydarlin
Jan 24, 2014 6:39 PM CST
DWARFS FART ???????
EdCoulter
Jan 24, 2014 5:00 AM CST
When Lipton blows the whistle, you gotta have a cup of tea.
FURonnie Bed Time For Bonzo
Jan 23, 2014 11:54 PM CST
This maybe the best place for a base...much better than Mars very little gravity.