Water Vapor Contribution to Ceres' Exosphere From Observed Surface Ice and Postulated Ice-Exposing Impacts

M. E. Landis, S. Byrne, J. Ph Combe, S. Marchi, J. Castillo-Rogez, H. G. Sizemore, N. Schörghofer, T. H. Prettyman, P. O. Hayne, C. A. Raymond, C. T. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Telescopic observations have detected an exosphere around Ceres, composed of either water vapor or its photolytic products. Proposed mechanisms for its formation include sublimation or sputtering from solar energetic particles of buried ice, surface ice, or an optically thin seasonal polar cap. We estimate the amount of water vapor produced by known exposures of water ice, detected in Dawn spacecraft image and spectral data and by ice exposures from subresolution impact craters. We use thermal and sublimation modeling to take into account slope, orientation, and, in the case of water ice within craters, shadowing due to crater walls. We use a Monte Carlo approach to calculate the number of ice-exposing impacts, where they occur on Ceres' surface, and how long the ice within the impact crater remains bright (e.g., less than one monolayer of sublimation lag). We find that the observed water ice patches on Ceres could account for ~0.06 kg/s of water vapor to (with Oxo crater as the main contributor) and that ice-exposing impacts that remain bright in appearance after one Ceres year supply 0.08–0.56 kg/s of vapor, depending on the regolith volume fraction of the ice. While water ice has not been detected to date at Occator crater, if it were present we find that Occator is unlikely to be a major contributor of vapor. We find a typical background water vapor production rate from all of Ceres, combining surface and buried ice, of about a few tenths of a kilogram per second.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-75
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Ceres
  • exosphere
  • impact craters
  • water ice stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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