Space & Astronomy
Ceres turns out to be rich in organic matter
By T.K. Randall
June 15, 2018 · 13 comments
Ceres has proven to be a fascinating place. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Scientists have revealed that the building blocks of life are far more common on Ceres than previously believed.
The original discovery of organic matter on the dwarf planet Ceres was made last year, but now a new analysis of data from NASA's Dawn spacecraft has indicated that these carbon-based compounds are actually a lot more abundant on the surface than the previous research had suggested.
Exactly how this organic matter ended up there however remains unclear.
"What this paper shows is that you can get really different results depending upon the type of organic material you use to compare with and interpret the Ceres data," said study leader Hannah Kaplan.
"That's important not only for Ceres, but also for missions that will soon explore asteroids that may also contain organic material."
While the presence of organic molecules on Ceres does not necessarily mean that life has developed there, it does offer clues as to how this material has been distributed around the solar system.
While it is likely that the organic matter on Ceres was deposited there by comets or asteroids, there is also the possibility that it was actually produced there through some currently unknown process.
"If the organics are made on Ceres, then you likely still need a mechanism to concentrate it in these specific locations or at least to preserve it in these spots," said study co-author Ralph Milliken.
"It's not clear what that mechanism might be. Ceres is clearly a fascinating object, and understanding the story and origin of organics in these spots and elsewhere on Ceres will likely require future missions that can analyze or return samples."
Source: Brown University
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