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Happy Kwanzaa from NASA – and Ceres!

Kwanzaa Tholus
The feature on Ceres known as Kwanzaa Tholus is at the center of each of these pictures from NASA’s Dawn probe. The color-coded elevation map at right highlights the feature as a reddish, crescent-shaped swath. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA)

Kwanzaa may be an African-American festival on Earth, but it’s also a cute little mountain on the dwarf planet Ceres – and there’s a reason for that connection to the season.

Today NASA is highlighting the Cerean geological feature known as Kwanzaa Tholus, in honor of the African-themed harvest celebration that runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. “Kwanzaa” comes from the Swahili phrase for “first fruits,” and it’s marked by candle-lighting and gift-giving over the course of seven days.

The other part of the name, “Tholus,” is a traditional designation in planetary geology for small mountains and hills, passed down from the ancient Greek and Latin languages.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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