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by ibgames

EARTHDATE: June 24, 2018

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by Hazed

The dwarf planet Ceres has a lot more carbon-based compounds than was previously thought. These organic compounds are the chemical building blocks for life.

Scientists discovered last year that the surface was scattered with patches of organic material. They also found that the surface is rich in water ice, and the crust contains ice, salts and hydrated materials. These are signs that there may have been an ocean on the planet in the distant past.

Water and carbon are both considered to be essential ingredients for life.

Now, a new paper says that there is a much higher concentration of these carbon-based compounds on Ceres’ surface that was previously thought.

The study by a team of scientists from Brown University and Carnegie Institution of Washington was led by Hannah Kaplan. She explained, “We estimate that as much as 40 to 50 per cent of the spectral signal we see on Ceres is explained by organics. That’s a huge difference compared to the 6 to 10 per cent previously reported based on terrestrial organic compounds.”

The new estimate of the amount of carbon compounds on the surface comes about because of a change in the way it is studied. Previous measurements looked at the reflectance spectra of Ceres’ organic material and compared it to rocks on Earth. The new study instead compares it to meteorites, which have a different spectral reflectance to Earth rocks.

So it’s not so much that new things have been found on Ceres, as that the data has been interpreted differently. Scientists believe the old way of comparing to Earth rocks led to the amount of carbon being underestimated.

They still don’t know why Ceres has such a high level of organic compounds. Possibilities are that they were delivered by comets colliding with the surface, or that they formed directly on the surface.

Future missions are going to be necessary to figure out what’s going on with the surface of Ceres.

Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/06/14/geoboffins_are_baffled_at_why_ceres_contains_so_much_carbon/

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