The latest data provided by the Dawn probe proves the presence of organic molecules on the dwarf planet.
This is the first time that organic molecules have been detected clearly from the orbit of a star in the main asteroid belt,
says Maria Cristina De Sanctis, the author of a study, published in the journal Science.
The data comes from the VIR spectrograph of the Dawn probe that is in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres since March 2015. Organic molecules, long carbon chains not yet identified, have been found mainly on a surface Of 1000 square kilometers around the crater Ernutet, located in the northern hemisphere of Ceres.
There are also other smaller areas, rich in organic matter to the west and east of the Ernutet Crater and similar molecules have also been found in a very small area within the Inamahari Crater, approximately 400 Kilometers from Ernutet.
The data reveals a planet rich in water ice, ammonia clays and various salts (sodium and magnesium).
The organic molecules are constitutive elements of life on Earth. Many other criteria are obviously necessary for the latter to bloom, but in the very distant past, Ceres was formed at the very beginning of the history of the Solar system and, probably very far from the Sun, this star may have had Conditions favorable to development of life forms.
The scientists believe that these organic molecules were produced on the planet and not „imported“ during an impact with a meteorite or a comet. They are now working to better understand the geological conditions in which these molecules have formed. They will still benefit from the new Dawn probe data that will run until the batteries run out. Being placed in a very stable orbit, Dawn should remain satellised around the dwarf planet for many years even after its final stop.