The question to whether or not Earth is the sole claimant to hosting life is still unanswered, but an international team of scientists have found that the dwarf planet Ceres has the "key ingredients for life" and could host alien life in microbial form. What's more, it appears as though the organic material discovered on the Asteroid Belt's largest planetoid is indigenous to Ceres itself.
An international team of researchers led by the European Space Agency (ESA) has discovered that Ceres is now a candidate for sustaining alien life. Using data obtained by NASA's Dawn space probe, researchers were able to determine that, as the Daily Mail explained, the "spacecraft detected absorption at wavelengths that are characteristic of the methyl and methylene groups present in aliphatic organic matter."
So far, researchers are not able to determine the exact molecular compounds on Ceres (due to insufficient data), they believe those found equate to such tar-like minerals as kerite or asphaltite.
The Southwest Research Institute's Dr. Simone Marchi, an author of the study, said this of the find.
"This discovery of a locally high concentration of organics is intriguing, with broad implications for the astrobiology community. Ceres has evidence of ammonia-bearing hydrated minerals, water ice, carbonates, salts, and now organic materials. With this new finding, Dawn has shown that Ceres contains key ingredients for life."What has the researchers so excited is that the organics found on Ceres do not appear to have come from an exterior source. There are a couple reasons for this. One: the organics were not delivered via a meteor strike, because an impact would have produced too much heart for the alien life to have survived. Two: The pattern of surface distribution of the organic material was not consistent with it originating from outside the dwarf planet. An example would be the high concentration of organic matter near the Ernutet crater, which is located in the northern hemisphere on Ceres.
"The overall region is heavily cratered and appears to be ancient," Dr. Marchi said.
"However, the rims of Ernutet crater appear to be relatively fresh. The organic-rich areas include carbonate and ammoniated species, which are clearly Ceres' endogenous material, making it unlikely that the organics arrived via an external impactor."
Scientists have been interested in Ceres for quite some time. The recent Dawn space probe mission to the dwarf planet had picked up evidence of strange "bright spots" on its surface that led to early speculation, according to the Inquisitr, that there might be alien life on the small world. Closer examination after Dawn arrived revealed that the highly reflective "bright spots" were sodium carbonate deposits, the largest deposits ever found outside of Earth. According to NASA, finding such materials as sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, along with the discovery of ammonia-bearing salts, showed that Ceres was similar in make-up to Enceladus, Saturn's moon whose geysers have been found to contain the same compounds. These materials have kept astrobiologists interested in the possibility of finding life in these unlikely places.
The Dawn space probe was charged by NASA with studying the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres in an effort to gather data and study, through the differences in composition of the two objects, the evolution of the Solar System (as the two objects are believed to have been formed in different areas of the system). It is currently orbiting Ceres.
But with the discovery of organics on Ceres, scientists might be able to explain the origin, evolution, and distribution of organic species throughout the Solar System. The search is now on to discover the origin of the organic material.
And, of course, the search continues on Ceres -- and elsewhere in the Solar System -- for the holy grail of discoveries -- alien life.
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