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This photo from a sequence of images provided by NASA, taken from the Dawn spacecraft of Ceres, a dwarf planet located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA said the start of science observations was slightly delayed because of a communication glitch. The space agency said the delay won?t affect the overall mission. (NASA via AP)

Our solar system's biggest asteroid is one-third water ice and was once an ocean world


New observations by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft suggest that Ceres, the biggest asteroid in the solar system, was once an ocean world, according to new findings from NASA.

The findings, presented Thursday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, show that the dwarf planet may boast ice volcanoes at the bottom of several of its craters.

The ice is located in soil below the asteroid's surface, and even builds up in the bottom of craters that pock the surface of the dwarf planet.

Tweet from Space.com on the discovery.

"The members of the (Dawn science) team expected a lot of things, but not what we finally got," says Ralf Jaumann of the German Aerospace Center. 

"I was completely surprised, and ‘completely’ means 'completely.'"

Here's some more info on Ceres:

  • It's the largest object in the asteroid belt
  • It orbits between Mars and Jupiter
  • Up to 30% of its total mass is made up of water
NASA's Dawn Spacecraft: Flight Over Occator Crater on Dwarf Planet Ceres

WATCH  |  This video shows the Occator Crater on Ceres, home to the dwarf planet's brightest area. 

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