Soon after the Philae landing on the comet Churyumov - Gerasimenko, there were news that it detected organic molecules on the surface. Does anybody know which ones? Were they the basic ones, like CO, that are so common in the universe? If so, of what interest is it to mankind?

  • $\begingroup$ (except pure awesomeness of the entire mission of course) $\endgroup$
    – L.R.
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 17:03
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Related question: space.stackexchange.com/questions/6021 $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @ForgeMonkey Thank you, I missed this page. $\endgroup$
    – L.R.
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 20:56

1 Answer 1


Ptolemy instrument sniffed water and 'organic' molecules before hibernation.

enter image description here (source: ESA)

From Wikipedia:

An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon.

Exact composition of Ptolemy detected organic molecules has not yet been announced, and according to some recent explanations such as during the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting Rosetta Comet Science Results, the team is still working on identifying precisely which molecules were detected. That on its own means there's a good chance that all this excitement surrounding Ptolemy findings isn't merely about simple carbon compounds such as carbon oxides, and perhaps even less likely because Rosetta's VIRTIS instrument already detected presence of carbon dioxide in comet's coma before the Philae lander even departed it:

enter image description here

Image source: ESA TV exchange FTP site, shared Nov. 9, 2014 (Philae detached from Rosetta on Nov. 12, 2014)


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