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Organic Molecules Detected by Philae, the Comet Lander

The Philae lander has detected organic molecules on the surface of its comet, scientists have confirmed. Carbon-containing "organics" are the basis of life on Earth and may give clues to chemical ingredients delivered to our planet early in its history. The compounds were picked up by a German-built instrument designed to "sniff" the comet's thin atmosphere. Other analyses suggest the comet's surface is largely water-ice covered with a thin dust layer. The European Space Agency (Esa) craft touched down on the Comet 67P on 12 November after a 10-year journey. Dr Fred Goessmann, principal investigator on the Cosac instrument, which made the organics detection, confirmed the find to BBC News. But he added that the team was still trying to interpret the results. It has not been disclosed which molecules have been found, or how complex they are. But the results are likely to provide insights into the possible role of comets in contributing some of the chemical building blocks to the primordial mix from which life evolved on the early Earth. More via BBC News.

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