Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:41PM
The NASA image shows dwarf planet Ceres. (Photo by AFP)
The NASA image shows dwarf planet Ceres. (Photo by AFP)

NASA’s Dawn mission spacecraft has found evidence of organic material on a small planet in our solar system, raising the prospects of life.

The NASA spacecraft has detected organic materials, similar to the organic materials that may have been the building blocks for the carbon-based life on earth, on the dwarf planet Ceres, media reported on Friday.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Ceres, which orbits between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt, for nearly two years.

By using the spacecraft's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR), NASA scientists detected the material in and around a northern-hemisphere crater called Ernutet.

"I think these organic molecules are a long way from microbial life," Dawn lead scientist Christopher Russell of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) commented on the finding.

"The discovery indicates that the starting material in the solar system contained the essential elements, or the building blocks, for life," Russell said.

"Ceres may have been able to take this process only so far. Perhaps to move further along the path took a larger body with more complex structure and dynamics" similar to earth, Russell added.

"This discovery tells us that we need to explore Ceres further," Russell concluded.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt and is located about three times farther from the sun than earth. The composition of Ceres is thought to reflect the material present in parts of the solar system when it was forming some four and a half billion years ago.

The discovery, published in Science journal puts Ceres, a dwarf planet consisting of rock-and-ice with about 950 kilometers in diameter, on a burgeoning list of places in the solar system where scientists are looking for life beyond earth. The list includes planet Mars and several ocean-bearing moons of the planets Jupiter and Saturn.