NASA has announced that Ceres, one of the many dwarf planets in our solar system is rich in organic matter.
According to researchers at NASA, Ceres is like a ‘Chemical Factory’, home to the same ingredients that helped life spring into existence on Earth.
Studying the dwarf planet could help us reveal how various processes here on Earth resulted in the creation of life.
Ceres is a cosmic body that orbits the sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The planet itself is thought to be around 4.6 billion years old, meaning that it most likely originated at the same time as our solar system.
A team led by Southwest Research Institute has found that the dwarf planet’s surface is rich in organic matter.
Data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft suggests that Ceres’s surface may contain several times the concentration of carbon than is present in the most carbon-rich, primitive meteorites found on Earth.
“Among inner solar system bodies, Ceres’ has a unique mineralogy, which appears to contain up to 20 percent carbon by mass in its near surface. Our analysis shows that carbon-rich compounds are intimately mixed with products of rock-water interactions, such as clays.”
In previous studies, scientists have reported that data gathered by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has revealed the presence of water and other volatiles, such as ammonium derived from ammonia, as well as a high concentration of carbon.
These details have led scientists to conclude that Ceres most likely originated in a very cold environment, perhaps somewhere outside of Jupiter’s orbit.
Data from Ceres could help scientists understand how planets like Earth came into existence, as well as answer one of the most important questions about life: What exactly laid the necessary foundation for the life that is there today.
“With these findings, Ceres has gained a pivotal role in assessing the origin, evolution, and distribution of organic species across the inner solar system,” Marchi said.
“One has to wonder about how this world may have driven organic chemistry pathways, and how these processes may have affected the makeup of larger planets like the Earth.”