For the very first time, water vapor has been detected on an object in the asteroid belt, providing definitive proof that Ceres, the dwarf planet, contains both an atmosphere and a surface of ice. If that ice were to melt, scientists postulate, the tiny planet only 590 miles in diameter may possibly contain more freshwater than all of Earth.
The discovery, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, was made by a team at the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Herschel mission, using the infrared telescope of the same name -- the largest, most powerful ever to fly in space -- to help scientists study the evolution of the universe and its various celestial components. Herschel also is pivotal in contributing to coinciding NASA projects, namely the mission seeing the Dawn spacecraft to Ceres at this very moment. … Read more