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The Good News
2015 April
Pg 3 - The Sunshine Express
¡®Dawn¡¯ breaks over distant Ceres... and perhaps
reveals signs of habitability
March 18 2015: NASA¡¯s Dawn spacecraft is about to start its
investigation of the largest member of the asteroid belt, 1
Ceres. It will take detailed images of the dwarf planet, and
produce a geological map of its entire surface.
But even before the spacecraft has reached its optimum or-
bit, the preliminary results just released are already surpris-
ing and delighting planetary scientists.
Up until February 2015, the best images taken of Ceres were
from the Hubble space telescope, showing a near-spherical
body with one area that was much brighter than the rest of
the surface. As Dawn approached Ceres, its camera acquired
some remarkable images, at about three times the resolu-
tion of those from Hubble. The pictures verified that there
was indeed a brighter region.
Even better, close examination of the images showed that
the area varied in brightness over the course of Ceres¡¯ day
(which is only about nine hours long), growing dimmer as
the dwarf planet moved into darkness. It is interpretation of
this variability that has planetary scientists buzzing.
As if that were not enough, a further series of pictures ap-
pear to show a plume emanating from the surface. Is Ceres
active? Does it have a layer of water or ice below a thin
crust of rock? Could it be a ball of mud, overlain by a muddy
ocean, on top of which is another thin muddy crust?
I¡¯m not sure just how many of
these there are, or how memorable
their names will turn out to be. But
as the Dawn mission¡¯s principal in-
vestigator Chris Russell pointed out,
there is one Mayan deity named
Yum (Yum Kaax, god of agriculture
and the jungle), who should readily
be remembered. One can only hope
the mission scientists find a suitably
delicious feature on Ceres to give
that name to.
(by Monica Grady, Professor of
Planetary & Space Sciences at The
Open University: theconversation.
com/institutions/the-open-
university
Originally published in The Con-
versation: theconversation.com/
dawn-breaks-over-distant-ceres-
and-perhaps-reveals-signs-of-habit-
ability-38967)
Images Of Ceres
that the Water Sports Park is still a natural river with
inherent dangers. Users are urged to exercise good
judgment, play safely, and wear personal flotation
devices when in the river.
The City would like to thank all who helped to make
the project a success: Haynes Excavation, Stonefly
Earthworks, Recreation Engineering and Planning,
the MRD, GOCO, Colorado Department of Local Af-
fairs, Welcome Home Montrose, Montrose County, the
Montrose Recreation Foundation, the Friends of the
River Uncompahgre, LiveWell Montrose-Olathe, the
Montrose Community Foundation, Colorado Parks and
Wildlife, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
A ribbon-cutting celebration for the park is scheduled
for mid-May, with the 1st Annual Water Sports Park
Festival scheduled for August 1. Visit the Water Sports
Park webpage at: CityofMontrose.org/WaterPark
Additional information about these events will be post-
ed as it becomes available.
Questions regarding the park may be directed to City
Engineer Scott Murphy at 970.901.1792, or Parks
and Special Projects Superintendent John Malloy
at 970.240.1411. For inquiries about the upcoming
celebrations, please contact Business Programs and
Event Coordinator Stacey Ryan at 970.240.1402.
Let The Fun Begin
City Announces Completion of
the Montrose Water Sports Park
Montrose, 2015, Mar 5: The City of Montrose is
pleased to announce that construction of the Mon-
trose Water Sports Park is complete, approximately
two months ahead of schedule, incident and injury
free, and within budget.
The project, constructed by local contractors Haynes
Excavation and Stonefly Earthworks, includes six
¡®wave stimulator¡¯ structures within the river, numer-
ous rock-terraced spectator areas, nearly one-half
mile of recreation trails, ADA-compliant access ramps
at each end of the park, two rock climbing boulders,
and numerous fish habitat improvements.
The project also included improvements to the
infields and dugouts at Ute fields, as well as new
trails that connect the Ute and McNeil fields to Riv-
erbottom Park. In early April, the Montrose Recre-
ation District(MRD) will also be installing a sensory
playground at McNeil Field and nine outdoor fitness
stations alongside the river. These exciting additions
to the community¡¯s parks system are a part of a joint
effort between the City and the MRD, using grant
funding from Great Outdoors Colorado(GOCO).
With completion of the Water Sports Park construc-
tion, the park is open to the public.
¡°We invite the public to come down and enjoy the
new park additions,¡± said City Engineer Scott Mur-
phy, ¡°whether it is to sit and enjoy the waves, go for
a stroll along the banks, do some fishing, or just get
wet and play in the water.¡±
The water features within the park are not just for
kayakers: tubers, paddle boarders, boogie boarders,
rafters, and swimmers can all find somewhere to
play. All who enjoy the park should keep in mind
The exact structure of Ceres is not yet known, although it
is clear that it¡¯s not rocky all the way through. Its density is
too low, so there must be at least some water or ice present.
Suggestions at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Confer-
ence in Houston, Texas, of icy volcanism on Ceres have led
to speculation that the dwarf planet could potentially be
habitable. Although Ceres does not have an atmosphere, life
might exist in a subsurface ocean, as has been suggested
for Europa or Enceladus, moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn
respectively.
Cryovolcanism, the presence of ice volcanoes, is not the only
mechanism that can produce a plume of dust and ice from a
planetary surface. The Rosetta mission has delivered amaz-
ing images of plumes coming from comet P/67 Churyumov-
Gerasimenko, caused by sublimation of ice that releases
dust and gas trapped inside the ice. Could the bright spot be
an icy plume caused by the vaporisation of Ceres¡¯ surface as
it turns towards the sun¡¯s heat, and then dropping away as
night falls?
Corridor talk at the conference speculates that Ceres might
be closer to a comet than the asteroid it is usually regarded
as.
Fortunately, we won¡¯t have to wait much longer before we
get some more definitive answers to questions of Ceres¡¯
physical structure and heritage. By the beginning of April,
the Dawn spacecraft will be much closer and will start its im-
aging campaign in earnest, at which point we will start see-
ing craters and other surface features at better resolution.
In preparation for descriptions of such features, and bearing
in mind that Ceres was the Roman goddess of the harvest,
the International Astronomical Union has ruled that craters
on Ceres should be named after international deities of ag-
riculture and vegetation, while other features will be named
after agricultural festivals of the world.
What is the bright spot of Ceres?
Not long till we find out. image: NASA