Localized aliphatic organic material on the surface of Ceres

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Science  17 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6326, pp. 719-722
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaj2305

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Organic compounds detected on Ceres

Water and organic molecules were delivered to the early Earth by the impacts of comets and asteroids. De Sanctis et al. examined infrared spectra taken by the Dawn spacecraft as it orbited Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt (see the Perspective by Küppers). In some small patches on the surface, they detected absorption bands characteristic of aliphatic organic compounds. The authors ruled out an external origin, such as an impact, suggesting that the material must have formed on Ceres. Together with other compounds detected previously, this supports the existence of a complex prebiotic chemistry at some point in Ceres' history.

Science, this issue p. 719; see also p. 692