Fresh emplacement of hydrated sodium chloride on Ceres from ascending salty fluids

M. C. De Sanctis, E. Ammannito, A. Raponi, A. Frigeri, M. Ferrari, F. G. Carrozzo, M. Ciarniello, M. Formisano, B. Rousseau, F. Tosi, F. Zambon, C. A. Raymond & C. T. Russell

Nature Astronomy, Volume 4, pages 786–793 (2020)


“The surface and internal structure of Ceres show evidence of a global process of aqueous alteration, indicating the existence of an ocean in the past. However, it is not clear whether part of this ocean is still present and whether residual fluids are still circulating in the dwarf planet. These fluids may be exposed in a geologically young surface, and the most promising site to verify the occurrence of present fluids on Ceres is Cerealia Facula dome, in Occator crater. This very young facula exhibits minerals that are relatively rare in our Solar System, the formation of which requires the presence of liquid water in combination with hydrothermal activity. Here we report the discovery of hydrated sodium chloride on Cerealia Facula. These newly identified chloride salts are concentrated on the top of the dome, close to a system of radial fractures. The spatial distribution of the hydrated phase suggests that chloride salts are the solid residue of deep brines that reached the surface only recently, or are still ascending. These salts are very efficient in maintaining Ceres’s warm internal temperature and lowering the eutectic temperature of the brines, in which case ascending salty fluids may exist in Ceres today.”