Formation of brucite and cronstedtite-bearing mineral assemblages on Ceres

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Dwarf planet Ceres is the largest body in the main asteroid belt with a rocky surface and uncertain internal structure. Spectra of Ceres in near- and mid-infrared wavelengths are consistent with the occurrence of brucite, Mg-bearing carbonates, and an Fe-rich phyllosilicate cronstedtite. Spectra of 10 Hygiea and 324 Bamberga imply similar compositions. Here, we considered stabilities of these minerals to constrain their origin. Cronstedtite is most stable at the temperature of ~0°C at moderately oxidizing aqueous conditions and at high water/rock ratios. Although cronstedtite could form on planetesimals, the apparent lack of serpentine may indicate its formation by Ceres' temporary surface solutions. Brucite forms at a low activity of dissolved SiO2, at a low fugacity of CO2, and at highly alkaline pH. Brucite and cronstedtite do not form together and may not form deep in the Ceres' interior. The absence of Mg serpentine from Ceres' surface materials and the unlikely occurrence of very olivine-rich rocks do not indicate a formation of brucite through serpentinization of such rocks. Brucite could form by transient near-surface fluids which do not equilibrate with silicates. Temporary fluids could deposit Mg carbonates before, after, or together with brucite at near-surface conditions that favor CO2 degassing. Regardless of Ceres' internal structure, internal thermal and aqueous processes may not affect cold near-surface layers. Percolation of interior fluids is not consistent with the lack of detection of low-solubility salts. However, impacts of ice-rich targets during the Late Heavy Bombardment could account for transient aqueous environments and unusual surface mineralogies of Ceres, Hygiea, and Bamberga. Brucite and Mg carbonates could have formed through hydration and carbonation of MgO evaporated from silicates. Apparently abundant carbonates may indicate an ample impact oxidation of organic matter, and the occurrence of brucite with cronstedtite may reflect turbulent and disequilibrium environments. Clay-like homogeneous surface materials on Ceres could be gravitationally sorted deposits of impact clouds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-26
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Asteroid Ceres
  • Asteroids, composition
  • Asteroids, surfaces
  • Cosmochemistry
  • Mineralogy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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