Largest asteroid in our solar system Ceres surrounded by water vapor (with finder chart)

January 23, 2014 | By | 5 Comments
Send to Kindle

Posted 23 January 2014 The European Space Agency announced this morning that their Herschel far-infrared space telescope has detected water vapor around the largest asteroid (or minor planet) Ceres in our solar system. 

Dwarf Planet Ceres, Artist's Impression Dwarf planet Ceres is located in the main asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, as illustrated in this artist's conception. Observations by the Herschel space observatory between 2011 and 2013 find that the dwarf planet has a thin water vapor atmosphere. This is the first unambiguous detection of water vapor around an object in the asteroid belt. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. While the observatory stopped making science observations in April 2013, after running out of liquid coolant, as expected, scientists continue to analyze its data. NASA's Herschel Project Office is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. JPL contributed mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel's three science instruments. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, supports the U.S. astronomical community. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Observations by the Herschel space observatory between 2011 and 2013 find that the dwarf planet has a thin water vapor atmosphere. This is the first unambiguous detection of water vapor around an object in the asteroid belt. Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Ceres is currently visible in the morning sky and appears as a 8th magnitude star when viewed through either a large pair of binoculars or small telescope.

Ceres, Moon and Mars finder chart for 3 am AEST / 4 am AEDT Friday 24 January. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission. Note that the view through your telescope may look different depending the design of your telescope.

Ceres, Moon and Mars finder chart for 3 am AEST / 4 am AEDT Friday 24 January. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

The below chart has stars to magnitude 10 to assist with star hoping to Ceres. Note that Ceres will only appear as a faint star.

Ceres finder chart for 3 am AEST / 4 am AEDT Friday 24 January. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission. Note that the view through your telescope may look different depending the design of your telescope.

Ceres finder chart for 3 am AEST / 4 am AEDT Friday 24 January. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission. Note that the view through your telescope may look different depending the design of your telescope.

Filed in: My astronomy blog, News | Tags: , , ,

About the Author (Author Profile)

This website is maintained by Paul Floyd. I am an amateur astronomer (and school teacher) with 25 years experience (as at 2015) in running a range of education and public astronomy outreach activities. As of January 2015, I have been providing astronomy information via the WWW for eighteen years.