Carbon is one of the compounds that are essential for life. Without carbon, life on Earth could not be possible. But the source of carbon or from where it entered into Earth’s atmosphere is not known. A new study has now suggested that comets brought carbon to Earth and other rocky planets. Comets are small bodies in the solar system that are frozen and composed of rock, dust, and ice. They are highly rich in carbon. Comets orbit much close to Sun. When they make a close approach, these bodies heat up and emit gases and dust. According to Professor Charles Woodward at the University of Minnesota, carbon is a key to decoding the origins of life on Earth.
The study said that it is still not known whether Earth during the early formation trapped enough carbon. It said that the carbon-rich comets could have delivered the element to Earth that led to the creation of life. Besides Earth, comets are also said to be a major source of carbon on Mars. Researchers said that they studied the comet Catalina to arrive at this conclusion. The findings related to carbon are based on observations made using an astronomical observatory on an airplane. It is called Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. SOFIA is a joint project by the German Aerospace Center and NASA.
In early 2016, researchers said that SOFIA’s infrared instruments captured a familiar carbon fingerprint within Catalina’s tail. Catalina originated from the Oort Cloud. It was discovered in 2013. It arrived on Earth’s doorstep unaltered from Oort Cloud. The Oort Cloud lies far beyond Pluto. It is the distant edges of the solar system. This makes Catalina and the likes froze. Researchers said that this offers rare chances to the community in learning about the solar system. SOFIA captured Catalina’s composition of the dust and gas during the evaporation. The comet was extremely rich in carbon. Researchers said that Catalina’s composition can explain how regions with poor carbon in the solar system evolved into planets.
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