NASA is showing off again and reminding me I need to give The Expanse another watch. The Dawn probe has successfully mapped the craters on Ceres that could accumulate ice. Guess that means a few Belters will have to go check that out in the future.
Norbert Schorghofer, a researcher at the University of Hawaii and guest investigator on the Dawn mission, explained in a recent news release:
“Ceres has just enough mass to hold on to water molecules, and the permanently shadowed regions we identified are extremely cold — colder than most that exist on the moon or Mercury.”
The current theory is the dwarf planet’s craters have been cold enough to trap ice for billions of years. If true, ice deposits could exist in several of the newly mapped craters.
It all lies in the permanently shadowed areas of Ceres. Dubbed cold traps, these regions of the craters never see direct sunlight. Long theorized, but Dawn proved Ceres has 695 square miles of permanently shadowed terrain. Its largest cold trap is in a crater near the dwarf planet’s north pole.
“On Ceres, these regions act as cold traps down to relatively low latitudes,” said Erwan Mazarico, also a Dawn guest investigator at Goddard. “On the moon and Mercury, only the permanently shadowed regions very close to the poles get cold enough for ice to be stable on the surface.”
How quickly do ice deposits develop? According to computer simulations, one out of every 1,000 water molecules ends up in a cold trap. If the simulations are correct, Ceres would have measurable, but thin, ice deposits in 100,000 years.
It explains why the residents of Ceres on The Expanse need regular shipments of ice from Saturn’s Rings to maintain the colony.