Worlds of water
In recent years, scientists have learned that one of Earth’s most unique features, its liquid oceans, is much more common throughout the solar system than scientists expected.
Take Ceres, a dwarf planet orbiting our Sun within the asteroid belt, which scientists discovered earlier this year is actually an ocean world, according to Discover Magazine. The discovery of abundant water on other worlds could have huge implications for the search for extraterrestrial life, to the extent that NASA astronomer Alan Stern says. Discover which is “one of the most profound discoveries of planetary science in the space age.”
Most of the water in the solar system is hidden underground, as in the underground lakes of Mars, or frozen, as on the Moon. But now, NASA research suggests that Ceres was hit by a space rock 20 million years ago that pierced its surface and unleashed a flood of extremely salty water. To better understand what happened and study the oceans, NASA could soon send a spacecraft to land on the surface of Ceres, according to Discover.
“Ceres is much closer and much easier to get to than these moons in the outer solar system,” said Carol Raymond, principal investigator for the NASA Dawn mission that sent a probe to Ceres in 2015. Discover. “It is a very attractive target.”
It’s not just Ceres. There are other high-profile ocean worlds like Jupiter’s moon, Titan, and strangely even Pluto.
NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, led by Stern, found that Pluto formed rapidly through an avalanche of collisions of space rocks that continue to heat the ancient planet’s liquid oceans. Discover reports.
The implications of all that are not yet clear, but it is within the realm of possibility that the implications may lead to the first discovery of life beyond Earth.
READ MORE: Earth is not the only ocean world in the Solar System [Discover Magazine]
More about oceans: Scientists: there is evidence that Pluto has an underground ocean