The vanishing cryovolcanoes of Ceres

Michael M. Sori, Shane Byrne, Michael T. Bland, Ali M. Bramson, Anton I. Ermakov, Christopher W. Hamilton, Katharina A. Otto, Ottaviano Ruesch, Christopher T. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Ahuna Mons is a 4 km tall mountain on Ceres interpreted as a geologically young cryovolcanic dome. Other possible cryovolcanic features are more ambiguous, implying that cryovolcanism is only a recent phenomenon or that other cryovolcanic structures have been modified beyond easy identification. We test the hypothesis that Cerean cryovolcanic domes viscously relax, precluding ancient domes from recognition. We use numerical models to predict flow velocities of Ahuna Mons to be 10–500 m/Myr, depending upon assumptions about ice content, rheology, grain size, and thermal parameters. Slower flow rates in this range are sufficiently fast to induce extensive relaxation of cryovolcanic structures over 108–109 years, but gradual enough for Ahuna Mons to remain identifiable today. Positive topographic features, including a tholus underlying Ahuna Mons, may represent relaxed cryovolcanic structures. A composition for Ahuna Mons of >40% ice explains the observed distribution of cryovolcanic structures because viscous relaxation renders old cryovolcanoes unrecognizable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1243-1250
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 16 2017


  • Ceres
  • cryovolcanism
  • Dawn
  • thermal modeling
  • viscous flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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