Astronomers discover dwarf planet ‘Ceres’ spouting water vapour

The European astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet, Ceres, in the asteroid belt spouting water vapour.

According to the scientists this discovery has strengthened the existing theories of how life began on Earth. Notably, several researches have said that life was kickstarted on the Earth by a bombardment of space rocks.

Ceres is the biggest object in the asteroid belt lying between two planets of the solar system: Mars and Jupiter.  The astronomers said that they saw vapour spewing geyser-like from the surface of the tiny planet.

The etymology of the tiny planet is after the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility.

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Ceres was first spotted in 1801 by an Italian astronomer, Giuseppe Piazzi. Ceres is 950 kilometres (590 miles) across in measurement. It takes about four and a half years to orbit the Sun.

Earlier it was believed to be a massive asteroid, a huge piece of rubble left over from the creation of our planet system. But later on after closer examination it was identified as the dwarf planet as it has a planet-like sphere that is believed to be a silicate core with an icy exterior.

After a series of debate, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) promoted Ceres to the new category of dwarf planet in 2008.

A team of researchers led by Michael Kueppers of the European Space Agency (ESA) discovered Ceres using an infrared instrument on the orbital telescope Herschel. The team scanned the sky four times between November 2011 and March 2013 to find the planet.

They found water vapour shooting from its surface from two fountain-like sources. Its rate was recorded at around six kilogrammes (13 pounds) per second as Ceres neared the Sun on its egg-shaped orbit.