Davide Perna


AstroFIt 2 – COFUND fellow since June 1, 2017

Project ended May 31, 2020

INAF Research Centre: Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma

Email: davide.perna at inaf.it

Curriculum vitae

In the Media:



Project title: ExoBio Exogenous contributors of pre-Biotic material to the early Earth


The “primitive” small bodies (carbonaceous asteroids, Centaurs, comets, trans-Neptunian objects) have formed in the water- and organic-rich outer regions of the protoplanetary disk. They carry information on a number of evolutionary processes which have taken place since the solar system formation, and, in particular, they are considered as the most probable source of terrestrial prebiotic material. The smallest of these small bodies could deposit such material on the early Earth in a more efficient way, without massive water vaporization and destruction of organic molecules as in the case of larger impacts.

Within my research project, I will characterize for the first time ever (via visible and NIR spectroscopy I’m currently acquiring as PI of a 30-night programme at ESO-NTT) the surface composition of the “small” (< 300 m) near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), in order to better quantify how much of carbonaceous material these objects could deliver to the Earth.

Moreover, I will analyse the spectra of primitive NEAs Ryugu and Bennu acquired by JAXA Hayabusa 2 and NASA OSIRIS-REx sample return space missions in 2018-2020. I will study in particular the absorption bands diagnostic of hydrated silicates and organics, to constrain the geological context from which the samples will be collected, and to help assessing if the organic compounds contained therein could lead to the formation of life on Earth.

Finally, I will investigate the cometary activity far from the Sun, by means of large observational programmes devoted to the photometric study of the surface and coma of Centaurs, a transitional population between the trans-Neptunian objects and the inner solar system. Noteworthy, the impact of Centaur-like objects may have significantly contributed to the delivery of noble gases and amino-acids to the early Earth. My analyses will help constrain the composition of these bodies and to reveal the source and underlying mechanism driving their activity.