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The remarkable surface homogeneity of the Dawn mission target (1) Ceres

Authors
Journal
Icarus
0019-1035
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
217
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2011.10.015
Keywords
  • Asteroid Ceres
  • Surfaces
  • Adaptive Optics
  • Infrared Observations
Disciplines
  • Physics

Abstract

Abstract Dwarf-planet (1) Ceres is one of the two targets, along with (4) Vesta, that will be studied by the NASA Dawn spacecraft via imaging, visible and near-infrared spectroscopy, and gamma-ray and neutron spectroscopy. While Ceres’ visible and near-infrared disk-integrated spectra have been well characterized, little has been done about quantifying spectral variations over the surface. Any spectral variation would give us insights on the geographical variation of the composition and/or the surface age. The only work so far was that of Rivkin and Volquardsen ([2010], Icarus 206, 327) who reported rotationally-resolved spectroscopic (disk-integrated) observations in the 2.2–4.0 μm range; their observations showed evidence for a relatively uniform surface. Here, we report disk-resolved observations of Ceres with SINFONI (ESO VLT) in the 1.17–1.32 μm and 1.45–2.35 μm wavelength ranges. The observations were made under excellent seeing conditions (0.6″), allowing us to reach a spatial resolution of ∼75 km on Ceres’ surface. We do not find any spectral variation above a 3% level, suggesting a homogeneous surface at our spatial resolution. Slight variations (about 2%) of the spectral slope are detected, geographically correlated with the albedo markings reported from the analysis of the HST and Keck disk-resolved images of Ceres (Li et al. [2006], Icarus 182, 143; Carry et al. [2008], Astron. Astrophys. 478, 235). Given the lack of constraints on the surface composition of Ceres, however, we cannot assert the causes of these variations.

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