A dwarf planet NEARBY may contain salt water that could one day make it habitable, according to a new study.
The study titled Porous Filled Metamorphic Bricks Explaining Ceres’ Low Mantle Density was recently published in the Journal of Planetary Science.
The study was led by a team of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists and mainly focused on Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
In the study, the team suggests that shortly after Ceres formed about 4.5 billion years ago, its “mildly warm” interior temperatures caused its cushion to secrete fluid “as a result of the low-grade thermal metamorphism.”
In addition to the liquid, the researchers believe that rock particles, brine and organic matter are also released – a mixture known as “metamorphic fluid”.
The team of scientists think that these metamorphic reactions have led to “dehydration and mineral decomposition”, causing water-filled holes, or voids, in the surrounding rock.
If their findings are indeed correct, the salt mix may have caused changes to Ceres’ surface to make it habitable for alien life.
The study authors tested their hypothesis using a model illustrating what might have happened to the rocks and ice including Ceres as the planet heated and cooled.
Their findings suggest that specific rocks in the mantle (i.e. solid rocks and carbonates) “will partially destabilize and release their volatiles when temperatures in the mantle peak around 3 Gyr after Ceres formed.”
In other words, as rocks heat up, they undergo chemical changes that allow them to release liquids and salts in the water.
“The overall composition of the brine appears to be quite similar to that of the soda lakes of the East African Rift Valley in Kenya,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory geophysicist and study co-author, Mohit Daswani said. Inverse.
“In the East African Rift Valley, evaporation concentrates salts and biologically methane-producing microbial communities. In Ceres, on the other hand, the liquid component is the result of heating and rock decomposition of the mantle over time,” he added.
The study notes that based on previous observations from NASA’s Dawn mission, brine particles could be present in at least two places beneath the Ceres crust: Hanami Planumand and Ahuna Mons.
This can happen because carbon dioxide in the water and other gases produced by metamorphism promote buoyancy and roll-up.
“It may be too cold for liquid brine to stabilize directly below these surface features, but brine leads to surface deposition that may be present underneath, in the mantle,” Daswani told Inverse. ‘ Daswani told Inverse.
The paper concludes that future efforts need to be made to “study the interaction of metamorphic fluids” to further evaluate the habitable conditions.
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https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/17675494/dwarf-planet-alien-life-salt-pools/ Nearby dwarf planet ‘could support alien life’ as scientists discover ‘Earth-like salt pools’