The surface of the dwarf planet Ceres is considered to be dominated by geological processes typical of small bodies or medium-sized icy bodies, such as impact cratering1,2; there are also features of putative cryovolcanic origin3 as well as those related to flow of near-surface ice4. Extensional features4,5,6 include regional linear troughs, fractures and pit chains, fractures associated with impact craters and with crater floors, and polygonal craters whose walls seem to be structurally controlled. However, no contractional features, which are related to thrust fault activity more typical of large silicate bodies7,8,9,10,11, have been described. Here we report the presence of scarps, ridges and fractures associated with thrust faults, tectonically raised terrains and thrusted craters—all contractional features. These structures closely resemble thrust-fault-related lobate scarps on Mercury7,8 and Mars9,10, albeit with lower displacement. They seem more abundant in high-latitude ancient terrains, perhaps owing to illumination effects that aid identification. The observed deformation implies that the crustal material is stronger than water ice but weaker than silicate rocks, consistent with our current knowledge of crustal composition12 and rheology13. These features suggest that large-scale contraction, possibly related to differentiation processes, occurred in the history of Ceres.
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The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information: Nature Astronomy thanks Christian Klimczak and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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The work by A.J.-D. was supported by a Juan de la Cierva-Formación postdoctoral contract (ref. FJCI-2016-28878) from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities. L.M.P. was supported by an FPU grant (2014/04842) from the Spanish Ministry of Education, and is a Graduate Fellow of the Madrid City Council (Spain) at the Residencia de Estudiantes, 2018–2019. This work received funding from the Santander-UCM 2018 project (ref. PR75/18-21613). This paper is dedicated to the memory of F. Mansilla Gómez.
Supplementary Figs. 1–9, Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary references.