The Philae space probe was powered down earlier than expected, but not before an instrument discovered an organic compound that was first detected in the comet’s atmosphere, the Wall Street Journal exclusively reported Monday. The find is extraordinary considering the organic compound contains the carbon atom, which is the basis of life on planet Earth.
Further research is being conducted to see if there are complex compounds like amino acids or simple ones like methane and methanol, considered “building blocks” for proteins.
The research “will help us to understand whether organic molecules were brought by comets to the early earth,” Stephan Ulamec, the Philae’s landing manager said, according to the Journal.
The European Space Agency (ESA) said the probe fell into hibernation after it only got 1.5 hours of light a day instead of the expected seven. Even though Philae “fell silent,” it was still able to send the information it retrieved while it was functioning — that’s how the organic compound discovery was found.