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outer space

Philae has detected organic molecules on comet

Organic molecules are essential for life, and the Philae spacecraft has found some on the surface of the comet it landed on last week.

Comet 67P is more than 500 million miles from Earth. A German-built instrument "sniffed" the atmosphere of the comet and picked up the compounds, the BBC reports. After Philae landed, a hammer struck the comet, and preliminary results sent back suggest there is a layer of dust on the surface with hard water-ice underneath.

Scientists hope that the data sent back will help shed light on the role comets and their chemicals may have had on the early Earth. They also hope that as the comet approaches the sun, Phliae's solar panels will recharge its battery enough to let the craft conduct more experiments — because it landed in the shadows of some sort of cliff, Philae is now in standby mode.