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posted by mrpg on Saturday June 16 2018, @09:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the clean? dept.

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

Related Stories

Dawn Spies Magnesium Sulphate and Possible Geological Activity on Ceres 15 comments

The Dawn spacecraft has found evidence of magnesium sulphate (epsom salts) on Ceres, causing the mysterious bright spots:

The US space agency's Dawn satellite continues to return remarkable images from the dwarf planet Ceres. Now just 385km above the surface (lower than the space station is above Earth), the probe has revealed new features inside the mini-world's Occator Crater. This is the 92km-wide depression that has multiple bright spots of what are thought to be exposed salts.

[...] "The intricate geometry of the crater interior suggests geologic activity in the recent past, but we will need to complete detailed geologic mapping of the crater in order to test hypotheses for its formation." Scientists think the bright spots are deposits of epsom salts (magnesium sulphate), the trace remains of briny water-ice that at one time became exposed on the surface.

With no atmosphere on the dwarf planet, the water content would have rapidly vaporised, leaving only the magnesium sulphate spots. Ceres likely has quite a lot of buried water-ice. This idea is being investigated by the satellite's GRaND instrument, which senses neutrons and gamma rays produced by cosmic ray interactions with surface materials. It is a means to understand the chemistry of the top metre or so of Ceres' rocky "soil".

Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.


Original Submission

Organic Molecules Found on Ceres 12 comments

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

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

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

Viking Mars Landers' Spectrometers May Have Destroyed Organic Molecules, Preventing Detection 16 comments

NASA may have burned best proof of life on Mars by accident over 40 years ago

Viking landers sent to Mars in 1976 to search for organic matter reported finding nothing, a conclusion that shocked scientists at the time. New research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Planets [DOI: 10.1029/2018JE005544] [DX], suggests the Vikings' main instrument might have actually discovered the organic matter but burned it while collecting soil samples, an article in New Scientist notes.

The primary instrument on the Viking landers, a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer, used heat to try and find these molecules. That was big a mistake. Because of a now-known chemical in the soil perchlorate, the landers would have destroyed any organics in the process. NASA's Phoenix lander found perchlorate on Mars in 2008, Space.com notes.

Perchlorate on Mars.

Previously: Organic Matter Found on Mars

Related: NASA Discovers Evidence for Liquid Water on Mars
UV Radiation and Perchlorates Could be a Toxic Combination for Potential Mars Bacteria
Study Finds Evidence of More Organic Material on Ceres
Complex Organic Molecules Found on Enceladus


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Saturday June 16 2018, @09:43PM (3 children)

    by Gaaark (41) on Saturday June 16 2018, @09:43PM (#694047) Journal

    "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."

    Cos it couldn't possibly be both. Nope.

    --
    --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Nerdfest on Saturday June 16 2018, @11:38PM (1 child)

      by Nerdfest (80) on Saturday June 16 2018, @11:38PM (#694073)

      Well, if you're going to be pedantic, "or" logically states that's possible. So there.

      • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Sunday June 17 2018, @01:12AM

        by Gaaark (41) on Sunday June 17 2018, @01:12AM (#694089) Journal

        OR, it was brought there on the boots of one of the SG teams. I, for one, blame Daniel. Well, why not!

        I'd blame Major Carter if I got to spank her.
        :)

        --
        --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17 2018, @12:32AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17 2018, @12:32AM (#694077)

      You forgoy the most likely possibiluty, it is simply the local waste dumping site for the alien base.

  • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Sunday June 17 2018, @12:53AM (1 child)

    by Snotnose (1623) on Sunday June 17 2018, @12:53AM (#694087)

    Not surprised some of my teen aged semen made it that far.

    I haven't had a boner that actually hurt for a good 40 years now. sigh.

    --
    When the dust settled America realized it was saved by a porn star.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17 2018, @03:06AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17 2018, @03:06AM (#694124)

      Look up thunders place on the internet. You can definitely cure erection issues.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17 2018, @03:49PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17 2018, @03:49PM (#694266)

    When I was in college I was told that organic chemistry is all the chemistry of carbon. An organic molecule is any molecule that includes carbon atoms.

    Titan has organic lakes. Venus has an organic atmosphere. "Organic" molecules are everywhere. There have even been sugar molecules (C+H+O, therefore organic) detected in the space between the stars.

    Blah.

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