The headline is definitely catchy, but don’t jump the gun and conclude that there is life on the dwarf planet considering that these are just preliminary findings of a study.
With that out of the way, let’s get to it! Scientists, using the data collected through NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, have found evidence that the dwarf planet has organic components – the same components that could be pegged as life’s building blocks.
According to the team behind this discovery, they found evidence of organics using the data collected by visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR) onboard the Dawn spacecraft in and around a northern-hemisphere crater called Ernutet. Organic molecules are interesting to scientists because they are necessary, though not sufficient, components of life on Earth.
NASA terms these findings as important considering that it adds to a growing list of bodies in the solar system where organics have been found. Ceres shares many commonalities with meteorites rich in water and organics – in particular, a meteorite group called carbonaceous chondrites, and the latest findings further strengthen the connection between the dwarf planet, these meteorites and their parent bodies.
According to the mission team, the organics discovery adds to Ceres’ attributes associated with ingredients and conditions for life in the distant past.
“This discovery adds to our understanding of the possible origins of water and organics on Earth,” said Julie Castillo-Rogez, Dawn project scientist based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The new findings presented in the Science paper support the idea that the organic materials are native to Ceres.
“This is the first clear detection of organic molecules from orbit on a main belt body,” said Maria Cristina De Sanctis, lead author of the study, based at the National Institute of Astrophysics, Rome. The discovery is reported in the journal Science.