By Chelsea Whyte
Ceres is doing some home-brewing in the asteroid belt. Organic material has been found on the dwarf planet located between Mars and Jupiter – and it was produced in-house.
Using the Dawn space probe, which has been orbiting Ceres since early 2015, planetary scientists found pockets of carbon-based organic compounds on the surface of the space rock.
The identity of the tar-like minerals can’t be pinned down precisely, but their mineral fingerprints match the make-up of kerite or asphaltite. The constituents and concentrations of these organic materials suggest that it’s unlikely they came to Ceres from another planetary body.
First, they wouldn’t have survived the heat of an impact on the surface of Ceres. And if they had hitched a ride on another stellar object, they would be widely dispersed, rather than concentrated in pockets. That means they must have come from Ceres itself.
“Anything else, you would expect it to …