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Comets and organic molecules

11 July 2022

At https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/07/220705112248.html  … ESAs Rosetta Mission collected date from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, between 2014 and 2016. Some of the data sent back, especially the dust samples, have taken a while to analyse. A team from the University of Bern has managed to identify a whole series of complex organic molecules. The research paper was published in Nature – see https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-31346-9 … and it seems some of the organic molecules are classified as fragrant, or aromatic. For example, naphthalene, which is responsible for the characteristic smell of moth balls, or benzoic acid, a natral component of incense, and benzaldehyde, widely used to confer almond flavour to foods. Many other interesting molecules are listed in the full article. It would seem such a comet has a scent, one that was appealing to humans.

Many other molecules have been detected, we are assured, instrumental in the synthesis of biomolecules such as sugars and amino acids. It seems very likely comets could have contributed to the emergence of carbon based life on earth, according to lead author, Nora Hanni. All it needs now is for other science disciplines to catch up with the astronomers. Panspermia may still be on the cards, in spite of all the adverse publicity in recent years.

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