Scientists just discovered a possible ice volcano on dwarf planet Ceres


We already know there's some really bizarre geology happening on dwarf planet Ceres, and now the latest batch of research published in the journal Science suggests it's home to — wait for it — ice volcanoes. 

New observations from NASA's Dawn spacecraft have revealed a giant volcano-like mound dubbed "Ahuna Mons" near the dwarf planet's equator. Researchers think it likely formed as an ice volcano, or cryovolcano, which spews salty, freezing water, according to NASA

It's a surprising discovery: The mixture of salt, mud and ice terrain on Ceres isn't anything like the terrain on a typical volcanic world. Most volcanism happens on rocky planets like Earth or ice worlds like Enceladus, according to NASA

"There is nothing quite like Ahuna Mons in the solar system," Lucy McFadden, co-author on one of the new studies, said in a statement. "It's the first cryovolcano we've seen that was produced by a brine and clay mix."

The team used a 3-D terrain map and images from Dawn to piece together a composite image of Ahuna Mons:

NASA/JPL/Dawn mission

Researchers can tell it is likely a cryovolcano because it has cracks near the top like we see on volcano domes here on earth. The slopes of the mound also have lines that look like rockfalls and piles of debris.

There are other mounds on Ceres that the researchers want to study closer. Right now it's unclear if they're cryovolcanoes like Ahuna Mons — or just regular mountains.