Skip to main content

Could comets be the source of life on Earth? - Justin Dowd


5,647 Questions Answered

TEDEd Animation

Let’s Begin…

While comets were historically thought to be ill omens of war and famine, recent science has revealed that these celestial wonders actually contain amino acids, the building blocks of life on Earth. Justin Dowd explores the implications of this magnificent discovery.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Learn how ancient people interpreted Halley’s comet appearing in the sky as far back as 460 B.C. Just imagine what they thought as they saw it streak across the sky. Check out this quick video from National Geographic about the return of Halley’s Comet in 2061. How old will you be then? How much more do you think we will know about space?

Learn more about the mission Stardust which collected amino acids from a comet, along with many other surprises. You can visit the Stardust capsule on display at the Smithsonian. What stories it could tell? Read the article from Time Magazine: More Proof that Getting Clobbered by Comets Led to Life. Watch and learn what the word Panspermia means. See more of what NASA has to share about how DNA molecules can be made in space.

The next step of comet exploration is to capture samples directly from a comets core using a spacecraft named Rosetta. Learn more about the mission already underway with its landing scheduled for November 2014. Watch the ScienceCasts: Mission to Land on a Comet. See breathtaking photos of comets and learn the goal of this mission.

One of the most amazing discoveries in science, the Kepler telescope allowed scientists to calculate the number of Earth-like planets in the galaxy using observations after an unprecedented mission which discovered hundreds of planets. Learn more about the 715 verified planets Kepler has discovered. Visit this Interactives page and learn exactly how Kepler discovers planets.

For really recent information about comets, listen to NPR Morning Edition where they discuss the smell of comets with European scientists. What exactly would a comet smell like and why would we want to know?

For more in-depth information watch this TED Talk: TEDx-NASA: Jim Green-Comet Encounter.

Next Section »

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Justin Dowd
  • Animator Justin Dowd
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Narrator Pen-Pen Chen

More from Out Of This World