In September 2007, NASA activated the Dawn mission that was focused on studying two protoplanets from the asteroid belt, namely Vesta and Ceres. After ten years, the space probe tracked down organic material on Ceres, which are the cells that are capable of constituting life. NASA scientists made use of the VIR technology, which is a visible and infrared spectrometer to identify such organisms in a crater called Ernutet.
This is yet another discovery that strengthens evidence that life is a possibility outside Earth. Until now, such alien organic material has also been discovered on different meteorites while other infrared tools managed to detect it on asteroids. This is why by studying all these samples, scientists believe that Ceres has a strong connection with the parent bodies of these meteorites.
The lead author of the paper, Maria Cristina De Sanctis, stated that Ceres represents the first major discovery of organic material from outer space. Based on the data appeared in this study, the organisms didn’t come from someplace else, but they are originated from this protoplanet. This fact aligns with previous discoveries of clay and carbonates that attest the presence of water and heat on Ceres. This leads to the supposition that the organic material was created in a warm environment which used to be rich in water.
The Dawn mission brought major discovery as such organisms are one of the ingredients that can power up a planet with life. Even though Ceres is now just a body of rock and ice, the dwarf planet could have been capable of a living ecosystem in the past. Previous research found other types of such vital ingredients like ammoniated clay created by the erosion of water, carbonates, water ice, and hydrated minerals. Occator Crater was hosting sodium carbonate and salts that could have been brought to the surface by liquids.
The Dawn mission is far from its ending. In the following six days, the space probe will travel from an altitude of 4,670 miles to a higher one of 12,400 miles. This position will allow the spacecraft to study the protoplanet from a different angle. At the end of the spring, the probe will see a brighter Ceres as the sun will be behind it. Thus, the visibility will be perfect to discover new details about the dwarf planet.
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