A visualization of Ceres spinning on its axis. The virtual camera moves from the equator toward the north pole, revealing the permanently shadowed regions recently found there.
In a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, lead author Norbert Schorghofer (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii) and six other scientists identify permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) near the north pole of dwarf planet Ceres, using data gathered by the Dawn spacecraft.
Dawn arrived at Ceres in March of 2015. Since then, its Framing Camera (FC) instrument has photographed the entire surface of Ceres at resolutions down to 62 meters per pixel. Scientists at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, or DLR) have used stereo pairs of FC images to create a global digital terrain map (DTM) of the dwarf planet.
The authors of the PSR study used the Ceres DTM and a technique called raytracing to find points on the surface of Ceres that never receive direct sunlight. These PSRs are expected to be cold enough to accumulate water ice over long time spans, and future spacecraft visiting Ceres are likely to find fresh water ice there.
Permanently shadowed regions capable of accumulating surface ice were identified in the northern hemisphere of Ceres using images taken by NASA’s Dawn mission combined with sophisticated computer modeling of illumination.
A visualization of the permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) at the north pole of Ceres as viewed from directly above the pole. While Ceres rotates, areas of day and night move around the pole, but the PSRs remain in darkness.