Geomorphological evidence for ground ice on dwarf planet Ceres

Britney E. Schmidt, Kynan H.G. Hughson, Heather T. Chilton, Jennifer E.C. Scully, Thomas Platz, Andreas Nathues, Hanna Sizemore, Michael T. Bland, Shane Byrne, Simone Marchi, David P. O'Brien, Norbert Schorghofer, Harald Hiesinger, Ralf Jaumann, Jan Hendrik Pasckert, Justin D. Lawrence, Debra Buzckowski, Julie C. Castillo-Rogez, Mark V. Sykes, Paul M. SchenkMaria Cristina Desanctis, Giuseppe Mitri, Michelangelo Formisano, Jian Yang Li, Vishnu Reddy, Lucille LeCorre, Christopher T. Russell, Carol A. Raymond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Five decades of observations of Ceres suggest that the dwarf planet has a composition similar to carbonaceous meteorites and may have an ice-rich outer shell protected by a silicate layer. NASA's Dawn spacecraft has detected ubiquitous clays, carbonates and other products of aqueous alteration across the surface of Ceres, but surprisingly it has directly observed water ice in only a few areas. Here we use Dawn Framing Camera observations to analyse lobate morphologies on Ceres' surface and we infer the presence of ice in the upper few kilometres of Ceres. We identify three distinct lobate morphologies that we interpret as surface flows: thick tongue-shaped, furrowed flows on steep slopes; thin, spatulate flows on shallow slopes; and cuspate sheeted flows that appear fluidized. The shapes and aspect ratios of these flows are different from those of dry landslides - including those on ice-poor Vesta - but are morphologically similar to ice-rich flows on other bodies, indicating the involvement of ice. Based on the geomorphology and poleward increase in prevalence of these flows, we suggest that the shallow subsurface of Ceres is comprised of mixtures of silicates and ice, and that ice is most abundant near the poles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-343
Number of pages6
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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