Dwarf Planet Ceres Has Way More Organic Molecules Than Originally Suspected

This rendering visualizes signatures on Ceres that indicate the presence of organic material. Credit: NASA/Rendering by Hannah Kaplan
On the dwarf planet Ceres, organic molecules are more abundant than scientists originally suspected.

By Chelsea Gohd | SPACE.com

Last year, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft detected organics, or carbon-based compounds, on the surface of Ceres. The exciting discovery raised the possibility that Ceres might be habitable and even that life could have once existed on the rocky world. And now, a new analysis of the mission data suggests that the patches on the surface of Ceres shown to contain organic material likely harbor even more of those molecules than researchers first thought.

This new analysis not only details the organic abundance; it also raises additional questions, like where the organic molecules came from, according to a statement. And the finding could serve as a valuable template and resource for future missions to study organics on the surface of Ceres, the statement said. [Photos: Dwarf Planet Ceres: The Largest Asteroid in Photos]

It is important to note that the presence of organic molecules doesn’t mean that life exists or ever existed on a world. Geological process on the surface, or even meteorite impacts, could create or deposit organics on a dwarf planet like Ceres. But scientists are still working to find the origins of these organics.

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