Dawn probe spots organic materials on dwarf planet Ceres

Ceres is now officially included the list of celestial bodies where we’ve found organic molecules. NASA’s Dawn scientists have spotted the presence of organic compounds on the dwarf planet using the spacecraft’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR). They found the organics covering an area measuring around 400 square miles in and around Ceres’ northern-hemisphere crater called Ernutet. They also found smaller patches of land with organics several miles east and west of Ernutet, as well as in another crater. That’s pretty abundant, considering Christopher Russell (Dawn’s principal investigator) said they weren’t “expecting to see something like this on the surface of Ceres” at all.

NASA still isn’t sure what the organics are exactly, but they gave off the same fingerprints as carbon-hydrogen bonds under near-infrared light and could include components like methyl and methylene. The scientists also believe that they’re native to Ceres, made on the dwarf planet itself and not transplanted there by meteorites or small asteroids. Carbonates and clays previously identified on Ceres apparently exhibit chemical activity in the presence of water and heat. That means the organics could have formed in a water-rich environment — and Dawn already proved that the giant asteroid is oozing with water.

Russell also said that the molecules are “pre-biological” and what scientists would expect “if Ceres was working its way along the complexity path.” They certainly make Ceres a life-friendly environment, so NASA is now considering the possibility that it’s hosting microbial life. In addition, this new discovery can help shed light on the “origins of water and organics on Earth,” pre-life chemistry that’s prevalent outside our planet.

Source: NASA

Source: Engadget - Read the full article here

Author: Daily Tech Whip

This article is part of our 'News Tiles' service. The site is currently in Beta. When it is fully operational you will be able to search through and arrange the 'Tiles' to display a keyword, product or technology over your chosen time period. For example you would be able to display all of the leading tech articles on the new Kindle Fire, in one spot in real time. You will also have access to our own original reporting and analysis as well as a polished place to post your own thoughts & reviews here, amongst the Daily Tech Whip Community. Please let us know if you have any feedback via the contact form or via Twitter. Don't forget to come back next week and see our full site and claim your name and your own free tech blog.

Share This Post On