On Ceres found organic molecules. How is that different?


2017-02-20 10:00:09




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Sometimes scientists behave too modest. Recently, Science published a work called "Localized aliphatic organic material on the surface of Ceres". Not that he remembered or even seemed important. But really it's just a blast. Scientists found organic compounds — such as those from which life originated on Earth — on the surface of Ceres, the largest asteroid in the Solar system.

People studying the asteroids, is not surprised by the discovery of organic molecules. For 200 years it is known that meteorites (fragments of asteroids) contain a wide range of organic compounds. And Ceres was chosen as the target for the mission Dawn because it was hoped that organic material is found. What excited the scientists this time? Two words: "localized" and "aliphatic".

Let's start with "localized". The molecule was discovered in a certain place on the surface around the crater Arnott (50 degrees North latitude 45.5 degrees East longitude). There are two possible sources of origin of organic components on Ceres. Either they have always been there, as belonging to the asteroid, part of the primitive material from which is formed Ceres (and the rest of the Solar system). Or organic matter came later, thanks to the collision with comets, asteroids or other interplanetary dust. In any case the organic substance must be more or less evenly distributed over the surface and not to accumulate in a certain place. The significance of this observation is not so much that Annotate found organic matter, but the fact that they are not found everywhere.

Let's move on to the second term: aliphatic. Organic molecules are widely divided into two main types: aromatic and aliphatic. In the first case, carbon atoms located in the rings which may accumulate in the vast network of molecules. In contrast, aliphatic compounds represent chains of carbon atoms. And we know that aromatic compounds are generally more robust and resistant to radiation and high temperatures than aliphatic molecules with the same number of carbon atoms.

On the active surface of the asteroid (like Ceres) was to survive, aromatic compounds, and aliphatic are not. This is also reflected in the most carbon-rich meteorites, where aromatic compounds today are more abundant component in a homogeneous mixture of aromatic and aliphatic organic compounds that they contain. However, organic molecules that have been detected on Ceres are complex aliphatic compounds, which in nature is almost like tar.


the Cradle of life?

What can we draw from these perplexing observations that were obtained during visual and infrared observations using a spectrometer with spacecraft Dawn?

The authors of the study claim that organics are unlikely to come from the process of interaction of another body with Ceres, because the specific nature of organic compounds that have been discovered mean that they were to disintegrate or be destroyed by high temperature in the collision. It is also likely that a collision with another body was to mix any organic material with the surface material, thereby reducing their concentration. But it is not visible.

Therefore, the authors suggest that the compounds are likely to belong to Ceres. This is reinforced by the fact that molecules were found, along with carbonates and clays containing ammonia. They were observed in many regions of Ceres, and they are chargeable, hydrothermal processes (or reactions with hot water) on the dwarf planet. On Earth, as far as we know, these processes also produce organic material.

Indeed, the data show that the carbonates and clay in abundance around Erotica, but not in other places. Hydrothermal processes may have been active in the past Ceres, when the asteroid was warmer at depth than it is now, which led to the formation of this organic matter. But it also means that the mechanism that brought the minerals to the surface Erotica — and nowhere else — is unknown.

The Combination of hot water and organic material is extremely pleasing and captivating. If you have favorable conditions for the production of organic materials — particularly those that contain nitrogen-containing clay material which catalyzes other reactions — will not be superfluous to suggest that Ceres could be and can be all the necessary ingredients. More precisely, the ingredients for formation of life that was on Earth and led to its emergence.

Arnott was the Egyptian goddess of fertility and lactation. Wouldn't it be great to find organic molecules in the crater named in her honor, which would be the first sign of the heavenly cradle of life?


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