Ceres Dwarf Planet Facts: Curious Details Revealed About The First Asteroid

Abhijeet Modi
Jan 25, 2024 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Jan 04, 2022
Discover interesting Ceres dwarf planet facts here at Kidadl.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.4 Min

Planet Ceres is the first member of the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter.

Ceres is the only dwarf planet remaining in the inner solar system. It is the surviving protoplanetary that was formed 4.56 billion years ago.

Asteroid belt Ceres was first discovered in 1801 by astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi, an Italian astronomer. It is the smallest planet, with an orbit distance of about 587.8 mi (946 km). But haven’t we studied that Pluto is the smallest planet?

In comparison, Pluto is the largest dwarf planet, whereas Ceres is the smallest dwarf planet, and therefore is more than two and a half times smaller than Pluto and other dwarf planets. Also, the planet Ceres is located in the Asteroid Belt, not the Kuiper Belt.

Ceres is a bit far from the sun as compared to Earth, but it is believed that its surface temperature could rise as high as -36.4 °F (-38 °C). Unlike other asteroids, Ceres is round in shape due to its large shape, which gravitates and molds itself into a sphere.

Ceres was so large and different from other asteroids in the belt that it was inappropriate to call it an asteroid and not a planet. Later, in 2006, scientists classified it as a dwarf planet. Unlike other dwarf planets, this large asteroid does not have any notable moons or ring systems. It’s is also believed that it also lacks a magnetosphere.

Ceres is the first dwarf planet that has been visited by a spacecraft. The Dawn spacecraft was sent by NASA in 2015.

Once you have finished reading facts about Ceres dwarf planet, why not check out more fascinating facts about Uranus and Hamal star, here at Kidadl.

Ceres Location In Space

Ceres, one of the dwarf planets, was once considered a member of the Gefion asteroid family. It follows the same orbit as Jupiter and Mars as it is located between them. Ceres is found at 2.8 astronomical units away from the Sun. The only brighter asteroid is the one that is the second-largest, namely the asteroid, Vesta.

With a magnitude of around +9.3, Ceres can be seen in a naturally dark and clear night sky around a new moon. As it is located near Jupiter, many of the asteroids either merge to form terrestrial planets, collide, or are ejected by Jupiter. It is therefore considered the last remaining one in the inner Solar System, along with Pallas and Vesta.

The formation of Ceres is inconsistent within the asteroid belt, as it is formed between Mars and Jupiter’s orbit. It is also believed that the dwarf planet Ceres got diverted into the asteroid belt as Jupiter moved outwards. It is also the 33rd largest body within Neptune’s orbit in the Solar System.

The dwarf planet Ceres is the closest dwarf planet to Earth. Scientists also believe that the asteroid was on its way to becoming a full-fledged planet. But Neptune’s strong gravity caused the failure.

Composition Of Ceres Planet

Ceres is pigeonholed as a carbonaceous or C-type asteroid. It is also classified as a G-type asteroid because of the clay minerals present on it.

The planet has a mass of 9.39×10²⁰ kg with a density of 0.07 oz/cm3 (2.16 g/cm³). It is approximately the size of an Orcus, a large trans-Neptunian object. Theoretically, the weight of the only dwarf planet is also due to the presence of ammonia salts in Ceres’s Occator crater.

The composition of the dwarf planet Ceres consists of ultra-carbon-rich materials in the presence of water. Ceres is likely to have a rocky core or an icy mantle due to early cryovolcanism.

It was found during the dawn mission that it also has a heavily cratered surface with a few large craters. Also in 2015, 100 bright spots were observed. These distinct bright spots are likely to be highly reflective materials such as water ice or salts.

Ceres also has a water-vapor plume. These water vapor plumes are derived from the exposed surface of ice which is evaporated by the Sun. The presence of water vapor hints towards the presence of a subsurface ocean on Ceres.

Hubble Space Telescope discovered two bright spots on Ceres.

Discovery Of Ceres Planet

With the prediction of a hidden or missing celestial object or dwarf planets, between Mars and Jupiter, the German astronomer Franz Xaver von Zach started a mission to find Ceres in 1800.

Later, on January 1, 1801, Sicily’s astronomer, Giuseppe Piazzi, found a moving star-like object, which was later announced as the largest object in the asteroid belt. Piazzi named his discovery in honor of Ceres Ferdinandea, a Roman goddess of agriculture. Ceres was considered the patron goddess of Sicily. Thus, the asteroid was named Ceres.

For half a century, Ceres remained as a planet in astronomy books and tables. For roughly the first 50 years of its discovery, Ceres was considered a planet. But with the discovery of another 14 similar objects known as minor planets, it could not be considered a planet.

In 2006, the asteroid was classified as a dwarf considering its size and shape. However, after many debates and discussions, the International Astronomical Union and NASA Gazetteer categorized it as an asteroid as well as a dwarf planet.

Orbital Period And Distance Of Ceres Planet From Earth

The day of Ceres is about 9.06 hours with an axial tilt of 4°, which is the shortest day length in the solar system. Ceres has a radius of 295.8 mi (476 km), which is approximately 1/13 times the radius of the Earth and 27% of the Earth’s Moon.

However, its trip around the sun takes place once every 4.6 years. That is an orbit period of 1642 days, which means that the sun only appears for 22 minutes per day. It is the closest dwarf planet to Earth and is named after the Roman goddess.

As we think of the possibility of life on Ceres, the presence of subsurface ice provides a hint of survival as its surface is composed of water molecules and certain organic compounds.

Although the first dwarf planet doesn’t have enough protective atmosphere. The apt temperature and the presence of liquid water may make it a potential habitat in the future.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Ceres dwarf planet facts: curious details revealed on the first asteroid then why not take a look at Hokuto apple: juicy facts revealed on the world’s heaviest apple! or 43 ever-so curious truck driver facts describing the trucking industry.

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

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Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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