Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, which sits between the orbits or Jupiter and Mars. It is currently classified as a dwarf planet, although it is far smaller than even Pluto or Pluto’s moon Charon. It was visited by the NASA Spacecraft Dawn in spring of 2015.

Facts About Ceres

Name Origin: Roman. Although Ceres is not as far away as the gas giant planets, its tiny size kept it hidden from astronomers until 1801. It was named after the roman goddess of agriculture, who had a temple in Sicily, where astronomy Giuseppe Piazzi made the discovery!

Size: Diameter  952.2km. Mass of approximately 9.4×1020 kg. Although the largest object in the asteroid belt, Ceres is so small you could fit more than 2000 inside the earth and still have room leftover!

Gravity: 0.029g. Cere has such a low mass, that it exerts very little gravity. If you weight 150lbs on Earth, you would only weigh 4.35lbs on Ceres!

Temperature: Because Ceres has no significant atmosphere, the temperature is a chilly -105°C!

Days: Rotational period 9 hours. Ceres spins very fast and is even less tilted on its side than the Earth!

Orbit: Semi Major Axis: 414,000,000km Orbital Period 4.6 years. Because Ceres is further away from the Sun than Mars it takes more than twice as long to complete an orbit.

Atmosphere: Because Ceres is so small, it has no atmosphere of any significance. The surface pressure is almost the same as a total vacuum!

Surface structures: Ceres is so tiny scientist have not been able to see many surface features until the first space probe arrived in 2015. NASA probe DAWN discovered that its surface is covered with craters, that are mostly shallow. The surface appears to be made of water ice. Also discovered are several very bright spots that reflect sunlight much better than the surrounding terrain. Scientists do not yet know what these bright spots are made of, but suspect they may be salts.

To learn more about NASA’s mission to Ceres visit DAWN

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