Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
EPSC Abstracts
Vol.14, EPSC2020-766, 2020, updated on 08 Oct 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

GAUSS: Towards Sample Return from Dwarf Planet Ceres

Xian Shi1 and the GAUSS Project Team*
Xian Shi and the GAUSS Project Team
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen, Germany (
  • *A full list of authors appears at the end of the abstract

GAUSS (Genesis of Asteroids and EvolUtion of the Solar System) is a mission concept for the future exploration of Ceres. As both the largest resident of the main asteroid belt and the only dwarf planet in the inner Solar System, Ceres holds critical information for probing the evolution and habitability of our Solar System. NASA’s DAWN mission performed the by far most comprehensive investigation of Ceres during its over three year in-orbit operation around this unique world. Data collected by remote sensing instruments revealed an amazingly diverse landscape comprising different types of geological features. Beneath its volatile- and organic-rich surface, Ceres might have once possessed a global ocean, the remnants of which possibly still exist today as pockets of brine between the mantle and the crust. Hydrothermal activities that took place in recent geological time transferred materials deep inside Ceres to its surface, forming several outstanding surface features that are optimal for future sampling. Similar processes could occur on other ocean worlds in the Solar System, making Ceres a benchmark case for studying the evolution and habitability of these objects in general.

To fully understand the physical and chemical evolution of Ceres, high resolution analyses of samples are necessary. With cryogenic sample return as its final step, the GAUSS project aims to answer the following key questions:

  • What is the origin of Ceres and the origin and transfer of water and other volatiles in the inner solar system?
  • What are the physical properties and internal structure of Ceres? What do they tell us about the evolutionary and aqueous alteration history of icy dwarf planets?
  • What are the astrobiological implications of Ceres? Was it habitable in the past and is it still today?
  • What are the mineralogical connections between Ceres and our current collections of primitive meteorites?
GAUSS Project Team:

Xian Shi, Jian-Yang Li, Julie Castillo-Rogez, Wing-Huen Ip, Henry Hsieh, Hejiu Hui, Hanlun Lei, Federico Tosi, Liyong Zhou, Jessica Agarwal, Antonella Barucci, Pierre Beck, Adriano Campo Bagatin, Fabrizio Capaccioni, Andrew Coates, Gabriele Cremonese, Rene Duffard, Manuel Grande, Ralf Jaumann, Geraint Jones, Esa Kallio, Yangting Lin, Olivier Mousis, Andreas Nathues, Jürgen Oberst, Holger Sierks, Josep Maria Trigo-Rodriguez, Stephan Ulamec, Mingyuan Wang, John Carter, Grégoire Danger, Julia de Leon, Jörn Helbert, Xiyun Hou, Hauke Hussmann, Katherine Joy, Tomas Kohout, Alice Lucchetti, David Mimoun, Olga Muñoz, Jose Luis Ortiz, Antti Penttilä, Frank Preusker, Ottaviano Ruesch, Pablo Santos-Sanz, Nico Schmedemann, Nicole Schmitz, Katrin Stephan, Guneshwar Thangjam, Cecilia Tubiana, Vassilissa Vinogradoff, Liangliang Yu, Francesca Zambon, Yuhui Zhao

How to cite: Shi, X. and the GAUSS Project Team: GAUSS: Towards Sample Return from Dwarf Planet Ceres, Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 September–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-766,, 2020