A recently released study came with some significant news involving Ceres. The dwarf planet revealed traces of life’s building blocks, traces detected by Dawn. This latter is a NASA spacecraft.
For years now, science has been scouting the outer space in search of planets capable of holding life. Or at least ones which present it’s building discovery. According to a new study, they may have just found such a planet. On a somewhat unlikely space body.
Ceres is a dwarf planet, the 33 largest known space body of our Solar System. It is located within the asteroid belt situated between Mars’s and Jupiter’s orbits. It is also the belt’s largest object.
The dwarf planet seemed an unlikely location mostly due to its componence. This space body is composed of ice and rock. With an icy mantle and rocky core, it may have once held an internal liquid water ocean. And apparently, Ceres has many more secrets in store.
Back in 2007, NASA launched the Dawn space probe. Ever since then, the spacecraft has been studying the planet. Ceres is one of its two targets. Dawn is also studying Vesta, another well-known protoplanet.
And now, scientists released a new study about Ceres. This was published in the Science journal. Available online since February 17th, the paper was titled as follows. “Localized aliphatic organic material on the surface of Ceres”.
According to the research, Dawn revealed some interesting elements. Which show that Ceres might be hosting life’s building blocks. Or more exactly, it reported the presence of indigenously formed organic compounds.
These were detected by using Dawn’s equipment. The spacecraft has, amongst others, an infrared and visible mapping spectrometer. This revealed the following.
A very small area located in Ceres’s Inamahari crater may be holding organic compounds. This is located some 250 miles from the Ernutet crater. Which also revealed traces of such material.
Organic compounds were detected in an about 400 square miles area near the crater. Both Ernutet and Inamahari are situated in the planet’s northern hemisphere.
Simone Marchi went to offer additional details. One of the study co-authors, Marchi is also a Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado senior research scientist.
He stated as follows. Dawn’s discovery is very intriguing. Especially so as it traced a locally high concentration of organic materials. This could lead to strong implications in the astrobiology community, according to Marchi.
Ceres revealed traces of the following elements. It presents water ice, salts, and carbonates. And also ammonia-bearing hydrated minerals. Organic materials will now also be added to the list.
Dawn’s discovery also points out the following. Ceres sports the key ingredients for the development of life.
According to Marchi, the organic materials most likely have an internal source. They are unlikely to have arrived on an external impactor. The organic-rich areas also include materials which are endogenous to Ceres. More exactly, ammoniated and carbonate species.
Reportedly, the Ernutet crater rims are also apparently fresh. Which is in contrast to the overall region which seems to be ancient. And which is also heavily cratered.
Another element also supports the potential internal source of the organic material. Previous observations spotted fluid mobility on Ceres. And also presented the clear signatures of a pervasive hydrothermal activity.
Nonetheless, the formation process of Ceres’s organic material is currently unknown. More research on the matter will be needed.
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