With its dark, heavily cratered surface interrupted by tantalizing bright spots, Ceres may not remind you of our home planet Earth at first glance. The dwarf planet, which orbits the Sun in the vast asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is also far smaller than Earth (in both mass and diameter). With its frigid temperature and lack of atmosphere, we’re pretty sure Ceres can’t support life as we know it.
But these two bodies, Ceres and Earth, formed from similar materials in our solar system. And, after combing through thousands of images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres since 2015, scientists have spotted many features on Ceres that look like formations they’ve seen on Earth.
By looking at similar features on different bodies — what scientists call “analogs” — we can learn more about the origins and evolution of these bodies over time. Check out these prominent features of Ceres, and see if you recognize any of their earthly cousins!