Ceres Has A Shiny Mountain

Ceres mountain
Ceres’ mysterious mountain Ahuna Mons is seen in this mosaic of images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft during its low-altitude mapping orbit, 240 miles (385 kilometers) above the surface, in December 2015. Click for the hi-resolution version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI

This Cerean mountain is beautiful to behold. Maybe it’s a lack of resolution or maybe the debris that formed the finely striated slopes is composed of a different mix of materials than seen on Earth, but the nearly parallel furrows make for an incredible sight. I almost want to grab a sand sled and go sliding.

On its steepest side, Ahuna Mons is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) high. Its average overall height is 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) with a length of about 12 miles (20 kilometers). Researchers are still at work trying to figure out how the feature formed. Right next door and apparently unrelated is similar size crater with hummocky floor steep slopes. What a pair they make!

Maybe it’s just sunlight, but the mountains right-hand slopes seem unusually bright as if salts might be in the mix. There’s evidence for this elsewhere on the dwarf planet in Occator Crater. The white patches there contain magnesium sulphates, a class of mineral salts that may have deposited after briny ice or water vaporized into space.

Some of the furrows seem to start near large and small cracks or fissures atop the mountain. Did this mountain form as a result of something pushing up from under the crust, I wonder?

I hope we’ll find out soon. In the meantime, feel free to stare goggle-eyed at the sight.

9 Responses

  1. If these features were created by an electrical process that could explain why apparently similar amounts of material would be excavated and also deposited side by side by the opposing charges involved … 😉 … It might even help explain the Magnesium Sulphates … 😉

  2. Giorgio Rizzarelli

    Hi there Bob how’s the book going?
    Re Ceres: a sci-fi writer would like to think that someone made a conic pyramid carving it out of the floor, leaving an identical hole. Some kind of natural processes would later fill partially the hole as well as disrupting the pyramid’s tip, explaining the differences between the two structures. Curiosly the mountain’s ellipse major axis is tilted at roughly 90° respect the hole.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Giorgio,
      I like your sci-fi take on the mountain. Thanks for asking about the book. The book and photos (there will be 200 or so images/diagrams/maps) is basically completed and now in the process of being edited. Since there’s still time to make changes, I’m going over it one more time to check for potential errors as well as re-shooting a couple photos to better illustrate ideas. Come May, I’ll be able to see it all layed out, and it will be published on Sept. 20th. I also still have to get endorsements and be involved in publicizing it. So still work ahead!

  3. Ralph Barbakoff

    Using your photograph of aurora March 6 over Duluth Minnesota for an amateur radio CQ photo on Slow Scan TV. I have the credit including the date and your name in the photo.

Comments are closed.