Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 April 2022
Carbon, central to astrobiology, shaped the development of the dwarf planet Ceres, a water-rich protoplanet explored by NASA’s Dawn mission. As a candidate ocean world, Ceres has the potential to provide new insights into prebiotic chemistry and habitability. This chapter reviews observations of carbon and organic matter on Ceres by Dawn and Earth-based telescopes. The observations are placed in context with astrophysical processes that produced organic matter in nebular materials from which Ceres grew. We consider mechanisms for destruction and synthesis of organic matter with changing hydrothermal conditions within Ceres’ interior. This is supported by studies of Ceres’ closest meteorite analogs, the aqueously altered carbonaceous chondrites, and halite crystals containing organic matter that may have formed within Ceres. Ultraviolet-, infrared-, and nuclear-spectroscopy show that Ceres’ surface contains a mixture of carbonates and organic matter in concentrations higher than the meteorite analogs. Ceres carbon-rich surface results from a combination of impacts and complex processes that occurred within Ceres’ interior, including low-temperature aqueous alteration, ice-rock fractionation, and modification of the accreted carbon species during serpentinization. This chapter reviews the current state of knowledge about carbon on Ceres, including sources of carbon and organics, parent body processes, remote sensing observations, and their interpretation.