In Brief Using the Dawn spacecraft’s spectrometer, researchers have detected unambiguous evidence of organic materials on the dwarf planet Ceres.
While not definitive proof of life of Ceres, this organic material does makes it more likely, especially when combined with the previous discoveries of water and carbonate minerals.
As scientists ask everyone to help them locate the elusive Planet Nine, researchers involved in NASA’s Dawn mission are hard at work studying the dwarf planet Ceres. Now, researchers have found traces of organic molecules on Ceres using Dawn’s spectrometer to map the dwarf planet’s surface in visible and infrared wavelengths.
“What we’ve found on Ceres is probably the most unambiguous detection of organics on any Solar System body other than Earth,” said Carlé Pieters, Dawn mission investigator, in an interview with Brown University.
Organic molecules, such as carbohydrates, nucleic acids, and proteins, are the basic building blocks of life.
Organic materials have previously been found in meteorites and on Mars, and while finding these on Ceres doesn’t mean that there’s life on the dwarf planet, coupled with the discovery of water and carbonate minerals, they do indicate that Ceres is potentially ripe for life.