Ingredients for Life Revealed in Meteorites That Fell to Earth

Ingredients for Life Revealed in Meteorites That Fell to Earth

Space boffins found the rocks, which are approximately 4.5 billion years old, contain both water and organic compounds.

The chemical makeup within tiny blue and purple salt crystals sampled from these meteorites, known as Monahans and Zag, showed a mix of complex organic compounds such as hydrocarbons and amino acids.

"Things are not as simple as we thought they were", co-author Queenie Chan, a planetary scientist at Open University in the United Kingdom, said in a press release.

"While the rich deposits of organic remnants recovered from the meteorites don't provide any proof of life outside of Earth, the meteorites' encapsulation of rich chemistry is analogous to the preservation of prehistoric insects in solidified sap droplets".

Further, the study raises a possibility of encapsulating life or similar bio-molecules inside their salt-like crystals.

Everything leads to the conclusion that the origin of life is really possible elsewhere,"adds Dr. Chan".

"What's even more incredible is that the salt crystals from both meteorites are believed to be from the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, Ceres, which suggests that it could be a suitable place for the formation of life".

Dr Chan added: "Each salt crystal, which is about two millimetres in size and the colour of a blue sapphire, is essentially a little package full of organic compounds and the necessary building blocks of life".

There are also structural clues of an impact-perhaps by a small asteroid fragment impacting a larger asteroid, Chan said.

In a scene straight out of a Steven Spielberg movie, one of the meteorites interrupted a kids' game of basketball in Texas, while the other landed near Morocco.

The in-depth analysis of the millimeter-sized salt crystals from the meteorites took time to complete because scientists needed a highly-sensitive instrument to study the crystals of amino acids at nanoscopic scales. Kilcoyne helped to train the researchers to use the ALS X-ray beamline and microscope.

They hint at elements for life having existed way back in history, they can teach us more about how colliding objects in space share organic matter, and they're evidence of how the seeds of life on one planet can find their way to another.

"This proves to us the salt crystals and the meteorites come from two different asteroids". Yokohama National University associate professor Yoko Kebukawa said, "Combined with other evidence, the results support the idea that the organic matter originated from a water-rich, or previously water-rich parent body - an ocean world in the early solar system, possibly Ceres".

Nevertheless, this breakthrough is monumental as it goes a long way to us understanding the process by which life on Earth may have formed, as well as what it might look like if life similarly appeared elsewhere in the universe. The journal Science Advances carried the findings of this study which included a well-detailed chemical structure analysis of the organic matter present in the rocks.

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