Here's How Jupiter Kicked Dwarf Planet Ceres Into Asteroid Belt

© NASA . NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDAThis representation of Ceres' Occator Crater in false colors shows differences in the surface composition.
This representation of Ceres' Occator Crater in false colors shows differences in the surface composition. - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.05.2022
Ceres is a dwarf planet levitating in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It was originally considered a planet, but then scientists downgraded it to an asteroid.
Jupiter's gravity was responsible for ejecting Ceres out into the asteroid belt between the largest planet in the solar system and the red planet, according to a new computer simulation.
Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt; it is about 1,000 kilometres wide and therefore stands out among neighbouring space rocks, which are only tens or hundreds of meters in diameter. Additionally, the dwarf planet contains chemical compounds in it that are not typical for its asteroid belt "neighbours" - ammonia, for instance.
This and many other bizarre features of Ceres led scientists to believe it was an alien in the asteroid belt, and thanks to new data, they may now know how the "intrusion" happened.
"In our article, we propose a scenario to explain why Ceres is so different from neighbouring asteroids," Rafael Ribeiro de Sousa, a physics professor at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil told Universe Today. "In this scenario, Ceres began forming in an orbit well beyond Saturn, where ammonia was abundant. During the giant planet growth stage, it was pulled into the asteroid belt as a migrant from the outer solar system and survived for 4.5 billion years until now."
According to the new findings, there were "at least 3,600 Ceres-like objects beyond Saturn’s orbit."
"With this number of objects, our model showed that one of them could have been transported and captured in the Asteroid Belt, in an orbit very similar to Ceres’s current orbit,” Ribeiro de Sousa suggested.
With Ceres containing ammonia - a compound not observed in regular space rocks but present in comets - it prompted scientists to question how it ended up in the asteroid belt if it has comet's origins. The answer to that may be connected to gas giants - Jupiter, in Ceres' case.
As the solar system was forming over 4.5 billion years ago, the gravity of the gas giants was a powerful force that scattered a lot of Ceres-like objects everywhere.
"Our simulations showed that the giant planet formation stage was highly turbulent, with huge collisions between the precursors of Uranus and Neptune, ejection of planets out of the solar system, and even invasion of the inner region by planets with masses greater than three times Earth's mass," Ribeiro de Sousa explained. "In addition, the strong gravitational disturbance scattered objects similar to Ceres everywhere. Some may well have reached the region of the asteroid belt and acquired stable orbits capable of surviving other events."
As a result of these events, the scientists now believe, Ceres found itself thrown into the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, joined by a couple of other dwarf planets - Vesta and Pallas. Another space object in the asteroid belt, named Hygiea, may also be a protoplanet.
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