On the composition and differentiation of Ceres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


The dwarf planet Ceres has a density of 2040-2250 kg m-3, and a dark non-icy surface with signs of hydrated minerals. As opposed to a differentiated internal structure with a nonporous rocky core and a water mantle, there are arguments for undifferentiated porous interior structure. Ceres' mass and dimensions are uncertain and do not exclude undifferentiated interior even if hydrostatic equilibrium is attained. The rocky surface may be inconsistent with a large-scale water-rock differentiation. A differentiated structure with a thick water mantle below a rocky crust is gravitationally unstable and an overturn would have led to abundant surface salt deposits, which are not observed. A formation of hydrated surface minerals caused by internal heating implies a major density increase through devolatilization of the interior. A later accumulation of hydrated materials is inconsistent with anhydrous surfaces of many asteroids and with a low rate of the cosmic dust deposition in the inner Solar System. Ceres' internal pressures (<140-200 MPa) are insufficient to significantly reduce porosity of chondritic materials and there is no need for abundant water phases to be present to account for the bulk density. Having the porosity of ordinary chondrites (∼10%), Ceres can consist of rocks with the grain density of pervasively hydrated CI carbonaceous chondrites. However, additional low-density phases (e.g., water ice) require to be present in the body with the grain density of CM chondrites. The likely low-density mineralogy of the interior implies Ceres' accretion from pervasively aqueously altered carbonaceous planetesimals depleted in short-lived radionuclide 26Al. Abundant water ice may not have accreted. Limited heat sources after accretion may not have caused major mineral dehydration leading to formation of water mantle. These inferences can be tested with the Dawn spacecraft in 2015.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-193
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Asteroid Ceres
  • Cosmochemistry
  • Geophysics
  • Interiors
  • Mineralogy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'On the composition and differentiation of Ceres'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this