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posted by Fnord666 on Saturday February 18 2017, @08:24AM   Printer-friendly
from the are-they-labeled-as-organic? dept.

Scientists using imagery from the Dawn spacecraft have found evidence of organic material on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres:

NASA's Dawn mission has found evidence for organic material on Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists using the spacecraft's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR) detected the material 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.

[...] "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. Data presented in the Science paper support the idea that the organic materials are native to Ceres. The carbonates and clays previously identified on Ceres provide evidence for chemical activity in the presence of water and heat. This raises the possibility that the organics were similarly processed in a warm water-rich environment.

[...] Having completed nearly two years of observations in orbit at Ceres, Dawn is now in a highly elliptical orbit at Ceres, going from an altitude of 4,670 miles (7,520 kilometers) up to almost 5,810 miles (9,350 kilometers). On Feb. 23, it will make its way to a new altitude of around 12,400 miles (20,000 kilometers), about the height of GPS satellites above Earth, and to a different orbital plane. This will put Dawn in a position to study Ceres in a new geometry. In late spring, Dawn will view Ceres with the sun directly behind the spacecraft, such that Ceres will appear brighter than before, and perhaps reveal more clues about its nature.

Localized aliphatic organic material on the surface of Ceres (DOI: 10.1126/science.aaj2305) (DX)


Original Submission

Related Stories

Ceres May Have Had a Global Surface Ocean in the Past 14 comments

Dawn Finds Possible Ancient Ocean Remnants at Ceres

Minerals containing water are widespread on Ceres, suggesting the dwarf planet may have had a global ocean in the past. What became of that ocean? Could Ceres still have liquid today? Two new studies from NASA's Dawn mission shed light on these questions.

The Dawn team found that Ceres' crust is a mixture of ice, salts and hydrated materials that were subjected to past and possibly recent geologic activity, and that this crust represents most of that ancient ocean. The second study builds off the first and suggests there is a softer, easily deformable layer beneath Ceres' rigid surface crust, which could be the signature of residual liquid left over from the ocean, too.

"More and more, we are learning that Ceres is a complex, dynamic world that may have hosted a lot of liquid water in the past, and may still have some underground," said Julie Castillo-Rogez, Dawn project scientist and co-author of the studies, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Ceres.

Constraints on Ceres' internal structure and evolution from its shape and gravity measured by the Dawn spacecraft (open, DOI: 10.1002/2017JE005302) (DX)

The interior structure of Ceres as revealed by surface topography (DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2017.07.053) (DX)

Previously: Dawn Spies Magnesium Sulphate and Possible Geological Activity on Ceres
Ceres's Cryovolcanoes Viscously Relax Into Nothingness
Organic Molecules Found on Ceres
Early Asteroids May Have Been Made of Mud Rather Than Rock
Dawn Mission Extended at Ceres


Original Submission

Bright Areas on Ceres Suggest Geologic Activity 8 comments

Bright Areas on Ceres Suggest Geologic Activity

Since Dawn arrived in orbit at Ceres in March 2015, scientists have located more than 300 bright areas on Ceres. A new study in the journal Icarus, led by Nathan Stein, a doctoral researcher at Caltech in Pasadena, California, divides Ceres' features into four categories.

The first group of bright spots contains the most reflective material on Ceres, which is found on crater floors. The most iconic examples are in Occator Crater, which hosts two prominent bright areas. Cerealia Facula, in the center of the crater, consists of bright material covering a 6-mile-wide (10-kilometer-wide) pit, within which sits a small dome. East of the center is a collection of slightly less reflective and more diffuse features called Vinalia Faculae. All the bright material in Occator Crater is made of salt-rich material, which was likely once mixed in water. Although Cerealia Facula is the brightest area on all of Ceres, it would resemble dirty snow to the human eye.

More commonly, in the second category, bright material is found on the rims of craters, streaking down toward the floors. Impacting bodies likely exposed bright material that was already in the subsurface or had formed in a previous impact event.

Separately, in the third category, bright material can be found in the material ejected when craters were formed.

The mountain Ahuna Mons gets its own fourth category -- the one instance on Ceres where bright material is unaffiliated with any impact crater. This likely cryovolcano, a volcano formed by the gradual accumulation of thick, slowly flowing icy materials, has prominent bright streaks on its flanks.

Ceres and cryovolcanos.

The formation and evolution of bright spots on Ceres (open, DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2017.10.014) (DX)

Previously: A Closer Look At Mystery Spots On Dwarf Planet Ceres
NASA's Dawn Orbiter Finds a Mountain on Ceres
Ceres's Cryovolcanoes Viscously Relax Into Nothingness
Organic Molecules Found on Ceres
Dawn Mission Extended at Ceres
Ceres May Have Had a Global Surface Ocean in the Past


Original Submission

Evidence of a Seasonal Water Cycle and Surface Changes Found on Ceres 4 comments

NASA Dawn Reveals Recent Changes in Ceres' Surface

NASA's Dawn mission has found recently exposed deposits that give us new information on the materials in the crust and how they are changing, according to two papers published March 14 in Science Advances that document the new findings.

Observations obtained by the visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR) on the Dawn spacecraft previously found water ice in a dozen sites on Ceres. The new study revealed the abundance of ice on the northern wall of Juling Crater, a crater 12 miles (20 kilometers) in diameter. The new observations, conducted from April through October 2016, show an increase in the amount of ice on the crater wall.

"This is the first direct detection of change on the surface of Ceres," said Andrea Raponi of the Institute of Astrophysics and Planetary Science in Rome.

[...] In a second study, VIR observations also reveal new information about the variability of Ceres' crust, and suggest recent surface changes, in the form of newly exposed material.

[...] This study, led by Giacomo Carrozzo of the Institute of Astrophysics and Planetary Science, identified 12 sites rich in sodium carbonates and examined in detail several areas of a few square miles that show where water is present as part of the carbonate structure. The study marks the first time hydrated carbonate has been found on the surface of Ceres, or any other planetary body besides Earth, giving us new information about the dwarf planet's chemical evolution.

Ceres.

Variations in the amount of water ice on Ceres' surface suggest a seasonal water cycle (open, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3757) (DX)

Nature, formation, and distribution of carbonates on Ceres (open, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701645) (DX)

Previously: Ceres's Cryovolcanoes Viscously Relax Into Nothingness
Organic Molecules Found on Ceres
Ceres May Have Had a Global Surface Ocean in the Past
Bright Areas on Ceres Suggest Geologic Activity


Original Submission

Study Finds Evidence of More Organic Material on Ceres 7 comments

Organic Matter on Dwarf Planet Ceres More Abundant than Thought

A new analysis of data collected by NASA's Dawn orbiter suggests that organic molecules may exist in surprisingly high concentrations on the surface of Ceres. The study [DOI: 10.1029/2018GL077913] [DX] appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

[...] To get an initial idea of how abundant those compounds might be, researchers compared the [Visible and Infrared Spectrometer] data from Ceres with lab reflectance spectra of organic material formed on Earth. Based on that standard, they concluded that 6-10% of the spectral signature they detected on Ceres could be explained by organic matter.

But for this the new study, Southwest Research Institute researcher Hannah Kaplan and co-authors wanted to re-examine those data using a different standard. Instead of relying on Earth rocks to interpret the data, they turned to an extraterrestrial source: meteorites. Some meteorites have been shown to contain organic material that's slightly different from what's commonly found on our own planet. And the new analysis shows that the spectral reflectance of the extraterrestrial organics is distinct from that of terrestrial counterparts. [...] "We estimate that as much as 40-50% of the spectral signal we see on Ceres is explained by organics. That's a huge difference compared to the 6-10% previously reported based on terrestrial organic compounds."

[...] There are two competing possibilities for where Ceres' organics may have come from. They could have been produced internally on Ceres and then exposed on the surface, or they could have been delivered to the surface by an impact from an organic-rich comet or asteroid.

Previously: Organic Molecules Found on Ceres

Related: Dawn Spies Magnesium Sulphate and Possible Geological Activity on Ceres
Ceres May Have Had a Global Surface Ocean in the Past


Original Submission

Complex Organic Molecules Found on Enceladus 4 comments

Saturn moon a step closer to hosting life

Scientists have found complex carbon-based molecules in the waters of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Compounds like this have only previously been found on Earth, and in some meteorites. They are thought to have formed in reactions between water and warm rock at the base of the moon's subsurface ocean.

Though not a sign of life, their presence suggests Enceladus could play host to living organisms. The discovery came from data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft.

Also at SwRI, ScienceAlert, Space.com, National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, and The Guardian.

Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0246-4) (DX)

Related: Minerals In Plumes of Enceladus Indicate Hydrothermal Activity
Hydrogen Emitted by Enceladus, More Evidence of Plumes at Europa
Could a Dedicated Mission to Enceladus Detect Microbial Life There?
How the Cassini Mission Led a 'Paradigm Shift' in Search for Alien Life
Cassini Spacecraft Post-Mortem
Porous Core Could be Keeping Enceladus Warm
Yuri Milner Considering Privately Funded Mission to Enceladus
Organic Molecules Found on Ceres
NASA Finds Evidence of Water Plume on Europa
Organic Matter Found on Mars
Study Finds Evidence of More Organic Material on Ceres


Original Submission

Dawn Spacecraft Runs Out of Hydrazine, Ceases Operations 13 comments

NASA's Dawn Mission to Asteroid Belt Comes to End

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system's earliest chapter.

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA's Deep Space Network on Wednesday, Oct. 31, and Thursday, Nov. 1. After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing. Dawn can no longer keep its antennae trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge.

The Dawn spacecraft launched 11 years ago to visit the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt. Currently, it's in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will remain for decades.

Ceres, Vesta, and Dawn.

Also at Ars Technica, The Verge, and Science News.

Previously: NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Nears the End of its Mission
NASA Retires the Kepler Space Telescope after It Runs Out of Hydrazine

Related:


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by anubi on Saturday February 18 2017, @08:47AM

    by anubi (2828) on Saturday February 18 2017, @08:47AM (#468528) Journal

    I would be surprised if they did not find organic compounds...., [wikipedia.org]

    The proof is in the pudding... if it has any DNA or similar, I suppose.

    --
    "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 18 2017, @04:33PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 18 2017, @04:33PM (#468628)

      The proof is in the pudding

      Ugh. I was about to complain about The proof is in the pudding [wiktionary.org] being wrong. The just-provided link shows it is in common usage in the USA starting in 1920s and gaining popularity in the 1950s. I did some additional searching and found its earlier (and to my eye, more meaningful) phrasing: The proof of the pudding is in the eating [wiktionary.org]

      THAT phrasing suggests: the pudding may look delicious, but one can never tell until one eats/tastes it.

      Nothing against you, personally, but is a pet peeve of mine and just had to get that off my mind. Thanks, I feel better now. =)

      You may now return to your regularly-scheduled discussion.

      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Sunday February 19 2017, @08:30AM

        by anubi (2828) on Sunday February 19 2017, @08:30AM (#468899) Journal

        I was only trying to inject a little bit of humor by a bad pun. In which case, by "pudding", I meant any organic goo [scientificamerican.com] that might be building up over eons of accretion of denser organic molecules.

        Miller, along with his colleague Harold Urey, used a sparking device to mimic a lightning storm on early Earth. Their experiment produced a brown broth rich in amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

        I know that isn't the true intent of the phrase, but I thought it close enough.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
  • (Score: 2) by Bot on Saturday February 18 2017, @09:22AM

    by Bot (3902) on Saturday February 18 2017, @09:22AM (#468538) Journal

    Next step, finding organic molecules on Heineken.

    --
    Account abandoned.
  • (Score: 2) by Pslytely Psycho on Saturday February 18 2017, @10:39AM

    by Pslytely Psycho (1218) on Saturday February 18 2017, @10:39AM (#468547)

    We now know where the crumbs from the Corned Beef Sandwich ended up!!!!!

    http://www.seeker.com/the-case-of-the-contraband-corned-beef-sandwich-1765022908.html [seeker.com]

    --
    Alex Jones lawyer inspires new TV series: CSI Moron Division.
  • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Saturday February 18 2017, @07:34PM

    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Saturday February 18 2017, @07:34PM (#468688) Homepage Journal

    I remain agnostic aboout life elsewhere. I think the chances of this being the only place with life are very slim indeed, but we may well be the first life in the universe. I mean, we can't produce abiogenesis, so it seems to me that for it to come about by accident must take a monumental bit of coincidence.

    --
    mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday February 18 2017, @08:14PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Saturday February 18 2017, @08:14PM (#468711) Journal

      We may well not be the first life in the universe, and we know of planets more than double the age of Earth [earthsky.org]. We can also infer that there are as many as a sextillion or more planets in the universe.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by theluggage on Saturday February 18 2017, @11:21PM

      by theluggage (1797) on Saturday February 18 2017, @11:21PM (#468762)

      I mean, we can't produce abiogenesis, so it seems to me that for it to come about by accident must take a monumental bit of coincidence.

      ...and the universe has provided a colossal span of time and a ridiculous number of chances for that monumental coincidence to come about. We've had a blink of the cosmic eye in a handful of labs. For that coincidence to have only happened once would be a vastly greater coincidence - its the mediocrity principle [wikipedia.org] and to insist that we could be the only, or first life is something of a Russel's teapot [wikipedia.org].

      The whole "space is really big" thing clearly hasn't sunk in. Nor has the Carl Sagan talk about how, if the age of the universe was a year, recorded history would occupy the last second before midnight. You'll know when you get it - you'll have the sudden urge to scream and hide under the bedclothes, followed by a sudden feeling of affinity with any bugs you've stomped on in your life.

      The extrordinary discovery would be that we were alone, which would leave us way, way out on a limb of the probability curve. Of course, that's pretty much impossible to prove, and can only be disproved by finding life. The "null hypothesis" has to be that we are not alone.

      Now, whether the nearest life is close enough for us to stand any chance of detecting it is another matter. However, a decade or two ago, we hadn't even detected any extrasolar planets (although, again, the only real surprise would have been if they weren't there).

      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Sunday February 19 2017, @08:36AM

        by anubi (2828) on Sunday February 19 2017, @08:36AM (#468900) Journal

        Also, the transit time of any communications.

        Do we even yet have the power to transmit that far, the sensitivity to detect their transmissions, or the knowledge of what to look for?

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
      • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday February 20 2017, @08:08PM

        by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Monday February 20 2017, @08:08PM (#469410) Homepage Journal

        I agree that the chances that we are alone are almost nonexistent according to what we know, but we don't know everything.

        Also, even if we don't ever find evidence of life doesn't mean it doesn't exist. In fact, that's central to my latest SF. In the story, they've found lots of life but no sentience, and one of the biologists wonders why (spoiler: they hide).

        --
        mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org