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PIA20350 crop - Occator from LAMO.jpg
Occator imaged by Dawn from LAMO. Fractures are associated with the bright spots and some other areas.
Coordinates19°52′N 238°51′E / 19.86°N 238.85°E / 19.86; 238.85Coordinates: 19°52′N 238°51′E / 19.86°N 238.85°E / 19.86; 238.85[1]
Diameter92 kilometres (57 mi)
Depth3 km
NamingAfter Occātor, a helper God of Ceres

Occator /ɒˈktər/ is an impact crater located on Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, that contains "Spot 5", the brightest of the bright spots observed by the Dawn spacecraft. It was known as "Region A" in ground-based images taken by the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea.[2]

The crater was named after Occator, the Roman god of the harrow and a helper to Ceres. The name Occator was officially approved by the IAU on 3 July 2015.[1]

On 9 December 2015, scientists reported that the bright spots on Ceres, including those in Occator, may be related to a type of salt, particularly a form of brine containing magnesium sulfate hexahydrite (MgSO4·6H2O); the spots were also found to be associated with ammonia-rich clays.[3] More recently, on 29 June 2016, scientists reported the bright spot to be mostly sodium carbonate (Na
), implying that hydrothermal activity was probably involved in creating the bright spots.[4][5] In August 2020, NASA confirmed that Ceres was a water-rich body with a deep reservoir of brine that percolated to the surface in various locations causing the "bright spots", including those in Occator crater.[6][7] The percolation of brine from a deep internal reservoir to the surface at Occator crater was first modeled in 2019.[8]

A small dome in the center of the crater is 3 km across and about 340 meters height. It is named Cerealia Tholus[9] and is covered by bright salt deposits named Cerealia Facula.[10] The group of thinner salt deposits to the east are named Vinalia Faculae [sic].[11] In July 2018, NASA released a comparison of physical features, including Occator, found on Ceres with similar ones present on Earth.[12]


Between 2015 and 2017, the Occator impact crater has had five separate attempts to date the impact’s age on Ceres.[13] The age dating models of the lobate flows and crater ejecta range from 200 million years to 78 million years and 100 million years to 6.09 million.[13] The age ranges have different chronology models, image data at verifying resolution, and different methods to evaluate the data.[14] The current data estimates an age of impact at ~20 to 24.5 million years; however, the estimates are of the sample areas with some uncertainty and variability due to arbitrary cratering and the use of different models to date the impact.[13] Thermal evolution of a large melt chamber below Occator Crater constrained the age of the impact is closer to 18 million years, this is evident in the difference between impact geology and formation of the Cerealia Facula (bright spot).[15]

Central depression (pit) and dome structure

The Ac-9 Occator quadrangle is located on an elevated equatorial region and is the brightest region of the dwarf planet Ceres.[16] The central feature located in the northwest region of the Ac-9 quadrangle, the 92 km Occator impact crater.[16][17] The possible Occator impactor (igneous rock) was approximately 5 km in diameter through Experimental simulation with an estimated velocity range of 4.8 km/sec to 7.5 km/sec and a target surface lithology of icy-rock material.[16] The simulation variables produced an 80 km impact crater with a central peak and a crater depth of 15 – 30 km. The Ac-9 shows heavily fractured crater floors and is consistently shallow compared to similar size non-fractured crater floors.[16] The Occator crater floor is covered in linear impact fractures from the southwest to the central depression.[14][16] These fractures cross over the northeast lobate flow deposits at the base of the crater wall that extends into the central depression.[17]     

The large number of impact craters on the surface of Ceres in the range of 70 to 150 km in size have central depression rather than central peaks.[17] Before the Dawn mission arrived at Ceres, the impact craters between 10 – 300 km in size have prominent conical central peaks.[17][18] These prominent conical central peaks are a prominent morphological feature on major icy bodies such as Saturn’s moons Tethys or Dione.[17] The smaller craters less than 40 km are virtually indistinguishable from the craters on other icy bodies; however, larger craters tend to have central depressions.[13][17] Occator Crater’s central depression is ~9 km across and ~1 km in depth from the crater floor.[17] The northern and southern edges of the convex profile of the crater are rimless with slopes of <10°, while the eastern and western edges of the crater’s depressions are dominated by irregular high standing massifs that formed an incomplete rim around the crater edge.[17]

Discovered in March 6, 2015 during the early stages of mapping of Ceres’s surface, the Dawn mission located a luminous region on the Occator crater floor.[17][18] This incandescent material was determined to have a dominant composition of sodium (Na) carbonates, Aluminum (Al) phyllosilicates, and Ammonium chloride (NH4Cl).[17][19][20] A review of high-resolution images from the Dawn mission framing camera (FC) revealed structural differences with the central peak of the impact. Occator crater is currently the most prominent well-preserved impact crater on Ceres’s surface, classified as a 92 km-wide complex crater.[19] Occator collapsed central peak, now a 9–10 km wide depression, the rim’s Crater average relief is ~3.75 km and has a crater slope between 30°- 50°.[16][17] Occator crater’s central 1 km deep depression displays a pronounced luminous feature names Cerealia Facula.[18] Occator crater’s central depression is filled with a 700 m (2 km wide) dome, encompassed by several dense fractures along the dome flanks.[17] This data indicates that the magnesium sulfide (MgS) deposits were in place after the central peak and dome’s uplift and collapse.[15][17][19]

The crater floor comprises three central morphological units, which divide the crater into zones.[16][17] The outermost unit or terrace zone along the crater wall forms a circumferential pattern.[17] This unit contains hummocky and angular material with small to large, tilted fault blocks that vary in size up to ~10 km in diameter and up to 2 km in height.[17] The interior zone of the crater is divided into two different units that have two different morphological characteristics.[16][17] The Northwestern Interior Zone is primarily hummocky material similar to the terrace zone material.[21] This northwestern unit topography is formed of irregular mounds and uneven ridges and laterally blends into the hummocky faulted terrace unit along the crater wall, making this section very difficult to distinguish between the terrace and interior zones.[15][16]  The material within these zones shows significant displacement from direct relation to the crater wall slumping and floor uplift during the impact event.[17][21]

The southern half of the crater interior zone is primarily a flat, low-lying topography of lobate deposits covering an estimated 1/3rd of the interior crater floor. Most of the southern u-shaped zone is formed around the central dome and opens to the structure’s northwest.[16][17] The local relief of the topography within the lobate deposits of the southern half of the interior zone constraints within ~100 m.[17] The topography relief of the western half of the interior zone has a gentle increase of the slope ~500 m.[17]

The asymmetrical change in relief of the lobate deposits located in the southern half of the interior indicates two significant factors.[22] First, the impactor made an oblique angle impact trending from the southeast to the northwest. Second, the target had variations in composition or topography that altered the impact.[17] Near the central depression and slightly offset from the center is an ~ 3 km wide dome structure with an upper surface densely covered in cross pattern fractures.[16][21] These fractures become less evident along the flanks and are believed not to extend into the walls of the depression (pit) structure.[17] The bright material deposits extend to the inward-facing wall of the depression and transition to the dome structure’s exterior wall.[16][17][18] This deposition pattern indicates the deposits formed within the contiguous geological unit and that the uplift and fracturing formed before deposition.[16]

Highest-resolution mosaic of Cerealia Facula - click to see full image (Final orbit; July 2018)
(use large image viewer to avoid browser crashes)
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Highest-resolution mosaic of the Vinalia Faculae - click to see full image (Final orbit; July 2018)
(use large image viewer to avoid browser crashes)
Context - Center of Occator (enhanced color; LAMO; February 2016)
Context - Center of Occator (enhanced color; LAMO; February 2016)
Bright spot may be mostly sodium carbonate (NASA; June 2016).[4]
Bright spot may be mostly sodium carbonate (NASA; June 2016).[4]
Ceres - crater Occator - simulated perspectives
Looking north
Looking south
NASA (December 2017)
Final orbit - Cerealia Facula - Mosaic Topography Model(22 km (14 mi)) (August 2018)
Final orbit - Cerealia Facula - Mosaic Topography Model
(22 km (14 mi)) (August 2018)
Last view from Dawn (1 November 2018)[23][24][25]


Ceres flyover animations
Surface features exaggerated
(simulated; 01:15; 8 June 2015)[26]
Flight over dwarf planet Ceres
(color; 03:43; 29 January 2016)
Ceres – Occator – Flyover (animation; 02:20; 15 December 2016)
Ceres – Occator crater – "bright areas" (animation; 10 August 2020
Ceres – Occator crater – "bright areas" (animation; 10 August 2020

See also


  1. ^ a b "Occator (crater)". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program., accessed 6 July 2015
  2. ^ Kupper; et al. (22 January 2014). "PIA17831: Water Detection on Ceres". NASA. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  3. ^ Landau, Elizabeth (9 December 2015). "New Clues to Ceres' Bright Spots and Origins". NASA. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  4. ^ a b Landau, Elizabeth; Greicius, Tony (29 June 2016). "Recent Hydrothermal Activity May Explain Ceres' Brightest Area". NASA. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  5. ^ De Sanctis, M. C.; Raponi, A.; Ammannito, E.; Ciarniello, M.; Toplis, M. J.; McSween, H. Y.; Castillo-Rogez, J. C.; Ehlmann, B. L.; Carrozzo, F. G.; Marchi, S.; Tosi, F.; Zambon, F.; Capaccioni, F.; Capria, M. T.; Fonte, S.; Formisano, M.; Frigeri, A.; Giardino, M.; Longobardo, A.; Magni, G.; Palomba, E.; McFadden, L. A.; Pieters, C. M.; Jaumann, R.; Schenk, P.; Mugnuolo, R.; Raymond, C. A.; Russell, C. T. (29 June 2016). "Bright carbonate deposits as evidence of aqueous alteration on (1) Ceres". Nature. 536 (7614): 54–57. Bibcode:2016Natur.536...54D. doi:10.1038/nature18290. PMID 27362221. S2CID 4465999.
  6. ^ McCartney, Gretchen; JHautaluoma, Grey; Johnson, Alana (10 August 2020). "Mystery Solved: Bright Areas on Ceres Come From Salty Water Below". NASA. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  7. ^ McCartney, Gretchen (11 August 2020). "Mystery solved: Bright areas on Ceres come from salty water below". Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  8. ^ Quick, Lynnae C.; Buczkowski, Debra L.; Ruesch, Ottaviano; Scully, Jennifer E.C.; Castillo-Rogez, Julie; Raymond, Carol A.; Schenk, Paul M.; Sizemore, Hannah G.; Sykes, Mark V. (1 March 2019). "A Possible Brine Reservoir Beneath Occator Crater: Thermal and Compositional Evolution and Formation of the Cerealia Dome and Vinalia Faculae". Icarus. 320: 119–135. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2018.07.016.
  9. ^ "Cerealia Tholus". web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Cerealia Facula". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.
  11. ^ "Vinalia Faculae". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.
  12. ^ Landau, Elizabeth; McCartney, Gretchen (24 July 2018). "What Looks Like Ceres on Earth?". NASA. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d Neesemann, A (2019). "The various ages of Occator crater, Ceres: results of a comprehensive synthesis approach". Icarus. 320: 60–82 – via Elsevier.
  14. ^ a b Bowling, T.J. (2019). "Post-impact thermal structure and cooling timescales of Occator crater on asteroid 1 Ceres". Icarus. 320: 110–118 – via Elsevier.
  15. ^ a b c Hesse, M. A.; Castillo‐Rogez, J. C. (8 February 2019). "Thermal Evolution of the Impact‐Induced Cryomagma Chamber Beneath Occator Crater on Ceres". Geophysical Research Letters. 46 (3): 1213–1221. doi:10.1029/2018gl080327. ISSN 0094-8276.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Buczkowski, D.L. (2018). "The geology of the Occator quadrangle of dwarf planet Ceres: floor-fractured craters and other geomorphic evidence of cryomagmatism". Icarus. 316: 128–139 – via Elsevier.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Schenk, Paul; Sizemore, Hanna; Schmidt, Britney; Castillo-Rogez, Julie; De Sanctis, Maria; Bowling, Timothy; Scully, Jennifer; Buczkowski, Debra; Quick, Lynnae; Preusker, Frank; Park, Ryan (2019). "The central pit and dome at Cerealia Facula bright deposit and floor deposits in Occator crater, Ceres: Morphology, comparisons and formation". Icarus. 320: 159–187. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2018.08.010. ISSN 0019-1035.
  18. ^ a b c d Palomba, E.; Longobardo, A.; De Sanctis, M.C.; Stein, N.T.; Ehlmann, B.; Galiano, A.; Raponi, A.; Ciarniello, M.; Ammannito, E.; Cloutis, E.; Carrozzo, F.G. (2019). "Compositional differences among Bright Spots on the Ceres surface". Icarus. 320: 202–212. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2017.09.020. ISSN 0019-1035.
  19. ^ a b c Raponi, A.; De Sanctis, M.C.; Carrozzo, F.G.; Ciarniello, M.; Castillo-Rogez, J.C.; Ammannito, E.; Frigeri, A.; Longobardo, A.; Palomba, E.; Tosi, F.; Zambon, F. (March 2019). "Mineralogy of Occator crater on Ceres and insight into its evolution from the properties of carbonates, phyllosilicates, and chlorides". Icarus. 320: 83–96. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2018.02.001. ISSN 0019-1035.
  20. ^ Giacomo, Carrozzo, Filippo (14 March 2018). Nature, formation, and distribution of carbonates on Ceres. eScholarship, University of California. OCLC 1163666265.
  21. ^ a b c Buczkowski, D.L.; Schmidt, B.E; Williams, D.A.; Mest, S.C.; Scully, J.E.C. (2016). "The geomorphology of Ceres". Science. 353 (6303).
  22. ^ Williams, David A.; Buczkowski, Debra L.; Mest, Scott C.; Scully, Jennifer E.C.; Platz, Thomas; Kneissl, Thomas (2018). "Introduction: The geologic mapping of Ceres". Icarus. 316: 1–13. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2017.05.004. ISSN 0019-1035.
  23. ^ Brown, Dwayne; Wendel, JoAnna; McCartney, Gretchen (6 September 2018). "The Legacy of NASA's Dawn, Near End of Mission". NASA. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  24. ^ Brown, Dwayne; Wendel, JoAnna; McCartney, Gretchen (1 November 2018). "NASA's Dawn Mission to Asteroid Belt Comes to End". NASA. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  25. ^ Chang, Kenneth (1 November 2018). "NASA's Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt Says Good Night - Launched in 2007, the spacecraft discovered bright spots on Ceres and forbidding terrain on Vesta". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  26. ^ Landau, Elizabeth; Dyches, Preston (8 June 2015). "Fly Over Ceres in New Video". NASA. Retrieved 9 June 2015.