The mystery of the missing craters on Ceres

Posted by K R on

When Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at Ceres last year the images it beamed back were puzzling. The nearest dwarf planet to Earth was missing the massive craters that astronomers thought would heavily scar the surface. As the Dawn probe swung around the body, the largest in the asteroid belt, its cameras recorded pictures of pockmarked terrain. But even though small craters dotted the Cerean surface, none were larger than the 175-mile-wide dent that is the Kerwan impact crater. This left scientists scratching their heads. Models of collisions in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter held that Ceres should have accumulated 10 to 15 craters more than 250 miles across in its 4.5 billion year history. Instead, it had none. And rather than hosting at least 40 craters more than 60 miles wide, Dawn had spotted only sixteen. To investigate, Simone Marchi at Southwest Research Institute in Colorado ran a series of computer simulations of the impacts Ceres might endure over its lifetime. They showed that the dwarf planet was missing craters all the way down to pits 100 miles wide. Only the smaller craters were found in the expected numbers. Read More: The Guardian

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