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Comet Chemistry

August 3, 2015

Comet 67P offers a window into the early solar system, and harbors organic compounds that may have provided building blocks for life on earth.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Comet 67P 7 July 2015 ESA-Rosetta-NAVCAM CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

Comet 67P on July 7, 2015 (ESA-Rosetta-NAVCAM/CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

Comet chemistry. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

How did life on earth first emerge? One possible explanation is that early in the solar system’s formation, comets rained down the basic molecular building blocks necessary for life to develop. On November 12, 2014, the European Space Agency’s Philae lander touched down on the surface of Comet 67P. Upon arrival, specialized instruments onboard the lander rapidly confirmed the presence of those building blocks: organic molecules made up of bonds between carbon, oxygen and nitrogen.

FRED GOESMANN (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research):

These molecules we found are known to be precursors for doing more complicated chemistry.

HIRSHON:

Fred Goesmann of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research led the study.

GOESMANN:

If you want to start off making a planet habitable, the in-fall of frequent comets would surely help, if the environment is right.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.