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Ceres - Dwarf Planet

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 19, 2008 09:01am | Post a Comment
Dwarf planets are objects with sufficient mass to assume a roughly spherical shape but yet too small to get picked for the starting lineup in the solar tee-ball match. There are currently four planets designated as dwarf planets. Before 2006 they were also known as minor planets, planetoids and (my favorite) subplanets.

  

Although there are currently only four designated dwarf planets, there are at least 41 known objects which may qualify when we get around to it. And when the Kuiper belt is fully-explored, there may turn out to be another 200. Beyond that there may be another 2000 subplanets in our solar system.
Ceres is named after the Roman goddess of cereals (a word which is itself derived from her name) and motherly love. She was both the sister and wife of Jupiter. Her worship was adopted by the Romans in 496 BCE, during a particularly severe famine. Her followers were mostly plebes who controlled the grain game in antiquity. For some reason, their rites included tying burning sticks to fox's tails.

The original name for the planetoid was Ceres Ferdinandea but that got shot down as not everyone was so keen on brown-nosing Spanish royalty. The dwarf planet is the smallest of the currently designated subplanets. It was actually discovered way back in 1801 by Giuseppie Piazzi who wrote, "since its movement is so slow and rather uniform, it has occurred to me several times that it might be something better than a comet." Even further back, Johann Elert Bode, in 1768, had suggested that there may be a planet between Mars and Earth. And lo, Ceres is situated within the asteroid belt. It's actually the largest  object in the belt --making up a third of the belt's mass. Its surface is made up of water ice (more than the total amount of water found on Earth), carbonate and clay. The weather on Ceres isn't that bad, reaching -38 degrees Celsius, which is warmer than some Midwestern winters I've experienced.

For what some would consider a measly celestial object, Ceres has appeared surprising often in movies, TV and, of course, video games:



In the American Astronaut there's a bar on Ceres called the Ceres Crossroads where a dance contest takes place.



In Exosquad, Ceres is posited as the location of the first Neo Mega breeding location.

In the Twilight Zone episode "The Lonely," Ceres is a prison colony.



In games:



In Countdown to Doomsday, there is an abandoned RAM research base there.



In Descent and Descent3, missions involve Ceres.



In Star Control II, Ceres station is destroyed by the Ur-Quan before humans are enslaved.



In Super Metroid, the first playable area takes place on Ceres.



In Terminal Velocity, a machine must be destroyed that will otherwise cause Ceres to collide with Earth.



In Zone of the Enders, a colony exists on Ceres.

 




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Dwarf Planets (3), Planetoids (1), Science Fiction (14), Astronomy (2), Video Games (25), Asteroid Belt Computer Games (1), Vhs (14), Dvds (47)