I Dream of Ceres

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Diameter comparison of the dwarf planet–asteroid Ceres with the Moon and Earth. NASA

I don’t enjoy going to job fairs. However, it’s probably not for a reason that you would think of. I actually don’t mind putting on a suit and tie or dusting off my resume (There isn’t much dust; it’s not very long…) My only complaint is that the fairs never offer the position that I’m looking for. This is because ever since I was seven years old and watched the faint blinking light of the International Space Station arc over my house, I have wanted to be an astronaut.

Go ahead and laugh! I realize that most people have given up this dream by the time they’ve reached fourth grade. The only reason that I haven’t let it go is simply because I’m one of the few that has what it takes. I have the right stuff. In second grade I went to space camp in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and my team won the badge for the best space shuttle launch simulation. The mission patches for every Apollo expedition are hanging on my wall. What’s most important though is that I know the best parts of space that nobody else would think of going to.

For example, if you could travel to any planet in the solar system, where would you go? Go to Mars and climb Olympus Mons, the ancient volcano that stands three times taller than Everest? Visit the swirling stormy dark red eye of Jupiter? Wrong. By the time that our society has perfected space travel, those locations will be swarming with tourists. If I were to explore the solar system, I would go to Ceres.

If you’ve never heard of Ceres, you’re not alone. Ceres is named after the Roman goddess of growing plants, despite having a surface temperature of -38 degrees Fahrenheit. Ceres is what’s known as a dwarf planet: the classification of celestial bodies that Pluto recently joined. Its circumference makes it roughly the size of Texas. Ceres is nestled between Jupiter and Mars in the main asteroid belt. It’s massive for its location, for it comprises a third of the total mass of the asteroid belt.

What makes Ceres so cool? For starters, it’s very close to us in astronomical terms. If Mars is our next door neighbor and Jupiter lives down the street, Ceres lives somewhere in between them. The density of Ceres is also very low, which leads astronomers to believe that it is made up of not just rock, but largely ice. If this is true, it probably contains more fresh water than the entire Earth does, despite its small stature.

These are great facts, but the number one reason to visit Ceres is for the weak gravitational pull. After running a quick calculation of Newton’s law of universal gravitation, I discovered that Ceres is so small its gravitational pull is 38 times weaker than that of Earth’s! Imagine taking leaps and bounds of tens if not hundreds of feet over the icy Ceretian surface. That sounds like an incredible time to me.

So take it from me and have an interest in little Ceres. Look me up in the future as well. If being an astronaut doesn’t work out for me, I might just open an interstellar travel agency.

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