Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. We've been studying it for a while, but new research published today in Science Magazine revealed that NASA's Dawn spacecraft has confirmed the existence of concentrated organic molecules on Ceres' surface. And the craziest thing? These materials likely came from inside the dwarf planet.
Organic molecules are any chemical molecule that contains carbon, and are the building blocks of all known life. We already knew Ceres had water ice and hydrated ammonia, meaning ammonia mixed with water. But this is whole new discovery.
An unusually high concentration of organic matter in the northern hemisphere of Ceres was detected with a spectrometer- an instrument that maps visible and infrared light. We can't tell the exact makeup of the materials right now, but researchers say they match, quote, "tar-like minerals such as kerite or asphaltite."
How do they know that these materials originated on Ceres and didn't come from, say, an asteroid or comet impact? Well, the areas where they found the organic materials also contain other substances that are endogenous, meaning that they came from inside the dwarf planet. So it is likely that the organics also originated on Ceres.
Phys.org: Scientists study geology of Ceres to understand origin of organics
Eureka Alert: Ceres hosts organic compounds, and they formed on the asteroid, not beyond
Science Daily: Astronomers discover complex organic matter exists throughout the universe