Ceres is the smallest dwarf planet in our Solar System and the largest asteroid currently known.
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Key Facts & Summary
- Ceres is the smallest dwarf planet having a diameter of only 946 km / 587 mi.
- For comparison, the largest dwarf planet, Pluto, has a diameter of 2,376 kilometers / 1,476 miles. Thus, Pluto is more than 2.5 times bigger than Ceres.
- Ceres is the only dwarf planet that isn't located in the Kuiper Belt. It is located in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter.
- Ceres was discovered a long time ago, in 1801, to be exact, and many considered it a planet.
- Ceres was only classified as a planet for a year and then as an asteroid.
- In 2006, Ceres received another title, that of a dwarf planet, after the dwarf planet Eris was discovered, and the planet Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet as well.
- Ceres was the first dwarf planet to be visited by a spacecraft.
- Ceres doesn't appear to have any moons or ring system as other dwarf planets do.
- From 1802 up until 2006, Ceres was considered the biggest asteroid ever discovered.
- Ceres was discovered in 1801 by the Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi. He named the celestial object as Ceres Ferdinandea to honor the then king of Sicily.
- Most asteroids have irregular shapes; however, Ceres is round since it is big enough so that gravity can mold its shape into a sphere.
- Some believe that life may have originated on Ceres.
- Ceres is named for the Roman goddess of agriculture.
- Ceres has a radius of 476 km / 296 mi. It is 1/13 times the radius of Earth, or 27% that of the Moon.
- Water molecules were discovered on Ceres by the DAWN spacecraft.
- Ceres was the first celestial object, which was classified as an asteroid.
Ceres was discovered in 1801 by Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi. From 1802 up until 2006, Ceres was considered the biggest asteroid ever discovered.
Giuseppe Piazzi named Ceres as Cerere Ferdinandea to honor Sicily's king, but it was later changed to simply Ceres, after the Roman goddess of harvest and love.
This goddess had a temple dedicated to her in Sicily, which was later revealed to be the oldest one dedicated to her.
Surface and Structure
Ceres formed around 4.5 billion years ago. Its surface is covered in giant craters. One of them, the Occator crater, has ammonia salts within it.
Many of these craters are 280 km / 175 mi in diameter, while the dwarf planet itself is mostly made up of ice and rock, and it probably has a rocky interior.
When the DAWN spacecraft visited Ceres, organic molecules were detected there, and even water molecules! These discoveries are very favorable for life to develop.
Many volcanoes are present on Ceres, but they aren't like the ones on Earth, they are cryovolcanoes, meaning they spill out ice instead of lava.
Time on Ceres
Ceres makes a trip around the Sun once every 4.6 years. This is the equivalent of 1,681 days. One day on Ceres lasts for only 9 hours. This is the period in which it rotates around its axis. It is one of the shortest day lengths in the Solar System.
Fun Kids Facts For Ceres the Dwarf Planet
- Ceres is quite warm for an asteroid. The temperatures on Ceres are at around -36o F / -38o C.
- Ceres was on its way to becoming a full-fledged planet; however, Neptune's strong gravity prevented this. The dwarf planet then settled in the Asteroid Belt.
- If you could compare Ceres to a country, it is almost equivalent to the top to bottom length of the United Kingdom.
- Ceres makes up for one-third of all the mass found in the Asteroid Belt.
- Ceres is located at only 2.8 AU from the Sun. One AU is the distance from Earth to the Sun.
- The dwarf planet Ceres receives the Sun's light in 22 minutes. Thus, if you were on Ceres, and the Sun would disappear, you would only notice this after 22 minutes.
- The word "cereal" comes from the same name, "Ceres."
- Ceres may contain over 200 million cubic km of water, more than all the freshwater on our planet put together.
Size and Comparison
Ceres is the smallest out of the five famous dwarf planets. Here is a list of their sizes:
Pluto – 2,376 kilometers / 1,476 miles
Eris – 2,326 km / 1,445 mi
Haumea – 1,632 / 1,014 mi
Makemake – 1,430 km / 888 mi
Ceres – 946 km / 587 mi
Pluto, the largest known dwarf planet, is more than 2.5 times bigger than Ceres. If we compare Ceres to the smallest planet, Mercury, then it is 5.15 times smaller than Mercury. Our Earth is 13.4 times bigger than Ceres.
Can We Live on Ceres?
The gravity on Ceres is only 3% of Earth, and people would float all the time there. Ceres may become habitable, but certain aspects, such as temperature and the presence of clear water, needs to be addressed.
There is also a problem regarding radiation, and Ceres doesn't have a protective enough atmosphere.
Will Ceres Ever Hit Earth?
Ceres is located at 2.8 AU away from the Sun. It typically is even farther away from Earth, and it won't ever hit us. If something would hit Ceres hard enough, then there are chances that the asteroid might be on a strange course, but chances are meager even then.
Is Ceres Bigger than the Moon?
Ceres is 3.6 times smaller than our Moon, having a diameter of 946 km / 587 mi, while the Moon has a diameter of 3,474 km / 2,158 mi.
Why is Ceres Not Considered a Planet?
Even though Ceres is big enough so that gravity rounds it up, which is one of the requirements for celestial objects to be considered as planets, Ceres fails to dominate its orbit. It shares an orbit with many other tiny asteroids.
What Would Happen If 1 Ceres hit Earth?
The asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs was considerably smaller than Ceres. If Ceres or an asteroid of a similar size would hit the Earth then nothing would survive. Even the atmosphere would be blown off.
- Ceres is the first celestial object classified as an asteroid.
- Ceres is the smallest out of the five official dwarf planets.
- Ceres is the largest object located in the Asteroid Belt. It is the only dwarf planet located there, and not in the Kuiper Belt, where most dwarf planets are.
- Ceres is classified both as an asteroid and as a dwarf planet.
- Ceres has water molecules on its surface, and certain organic compounds were also detected there.
- This dwarf planet doesn't have any moons, and it doesn't have a ring system.