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.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Russell, C. T. et al. Dawn arrives at Ceres: exploration of a small volatile-rich world. Science 353, 1008–1010 (2016).
Hiesinger, H. et al. Cratering on Ceres: implications for its crust and evolution. Science 353, aaf4759 (2016).
Ruesch, O. et al. Cryovolcanism on Ceres. Science 353, aaf4286 (2016).
Buczkowski, D. L. et al. The geomorphology of Ceres. Science 353, aaf4332 (2016).
Buczkowski, D. L. et al. Tectonic analysis of fracturing associated with occator crater. Icarus 320, 49–59 (2019).
Scully, J. E. C. et al. Evidence for the interior evolution of Ceres from geologic analysis of fractures. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 9564–9572 (2017).
Strom, R. G., Trask, N. J. & Guest, J. E. Tectonism and volcanism. J. Geophys. Res. 80, 2478–2507 (1975).
Watters, T. R. et al. The tectonics of Mercury: the view after MESSENGER’s first flyby. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 285, 283–296 (2009).
Watters, T. R. Thrust faults along the dichotomy boundary in the eastern hemisphere of Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 108, 5054 (2003).
Egea-González, I. et al. Thrust faults modeling and Late-Noachian lithospheric structure of the circum-Hellas region, Mars. Icarus 217, 53–68 (2017).
Watters, T. R. et al. Evidence of recent thrust faulting on the Moon revealed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. Science 329, 936–940 (2010).
Fu, R. R. et al. The interior structure of Ceres as revealed by surface topography. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 476, 153–164 (2017).
Bland, M. T. et al. Composition and structure of the shallow subsurface of Ceres revealed by crater morphology. Nat. Geosci. 9, 538–542 (2016).
Watters, T. R., Thomas, P. C. & Robinson, M. S. Thrust faults and the near-surface strength of asteroid 433 Eros. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L02202 (2011).
Schenk, P. M. & Bulmer, M. H. Origin of mountains on Io by thrust faulting and large-scale mass movements. Science 279, 1514–1518 (1998).
Prockter, L. M. & Pappalardo, R. T. Folds on Europa: implications for crustal cycling and accommodation of extension. Science 289, 941–943 (2000).
Collins, G. C. et al. in Planetary Tectonics (eds Watters, T. R. & Schultz, R. A.) 264–350 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010).
Thomas, P. C. et al. Differentiation of the asteroid Ceres as revealed by its shape. Nature 437, 224–226 (2005).
Roatsch, T. et al. Dawn FC2 Derived Ceres Mosaics version 1.0 (NASA Planetary Data System, 2016).
Watters, T. R. Compressional tectonism on Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 98, 049–17,060 (1993).
Watters, T. R. & Nimmo, F. in Planetary Tectonics (eds Watters, T. R. & Schultz, R. A.) 15–88 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010).
Fossen, H. Structural Geology (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010).
Ruiz, J., López, V., Dohm, J. M. & Fernández, C. Structural control of scarps in the Rembrandt region of Mercury. Icarus 219, 511–514 (2012).
Crane, K. T. & Klimczak, C. Tectonic patterns of shortening landforms in Mercury’s northern smooth plains. Icarus 317, 66–80 (2019).
Melosh, H. J. Global tectonics of a despun planet. Icarus 31, 221–243 (1977).
Mao, X. & McKinnon, W. B. Faster paleospin and deep-seated uncompensated mass as possible explanations for Ceres’ present-day shape and gravity. Icarus 299, 430–442 (2018).
Williams, D. A. et al. Introduction: the geologic mapping of Ceres. Icarus 316, 1–13 (2018).
Sizemore, H. G. et al. A global inventory of ice-related morphological features on dwarf planet Ceres: implications for the evolution and current state of the cryosphere. J. Geophys. Res. Planets https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005699 (2018).
Hughson, K. H. G. et al. Fluidized appearing ejecta on Ceres: implications for the mechanical properties, frictional properties, and composition of its shallow subsurface. J. Geophys. Res. Planets https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005666 (2019).
Ermakov, A. I. et al. Constraints on Ceres’ internal structure and evolution from its shape and gravity measured by the Dawn spacecraft. J. Geophys. Res. Planets 122, 2267–2293 (2017).
Durham, W. B., Prieto-Ballesteros, O., Goldsby, D. L. & Kargel, J. S. Rheological and thermal properties of icy materials. Space Sci. Rev. 153, 273–298 (2010).
Park, R. S. et al. A partially differentiated interior for (1) Ceres deduced from its gravity field and shape. Nature 537, 515–517 (2016).
King, S. D. et al. Ceres internal structure from geophysical constraints. Meteorol. Planet. Sci. 53, 1999–2007 (2018).
McCord, T. B. & Sotin, C. Ceres: evolution and current state. J. Geophys. Res. 110, E05009 (2005).
Wilson, J. T. Hypothesis of Earth’s behaviour. Nature 198, 925–929 (1963).
Preusker, et al. in Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 47 LPI Contribution No. 1903, abstract 1954 (Lunar and Planetary Institute, 2016).
German Aerospace Centre Ceres Dawn FC HAMO DTM Global 60ppd (137mp) Oct. 2016 (Dawn Team, 2016); https://astrogeology.usgs.gov/search/map/Ceres/Dawn/DLR/FramingCamera/Ceres_Dawn_FC_HAMO_DTM_DLR_Global_60ppd_Oct2016
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.
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.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Ruiz, J., Jiménez-Díaz, A., Mansilla, F. et al. Evidence of thrust faulting and widespread contraction of Ceres. Nat Astron 3, 916–921 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-019-0803-2
Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets (2020)
Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2020)