Components for life disclosed in meteorites

Researchers analysed salt crystals found in the two meteorites which are 4.5 billion years old

And they had something in common besides reaching Earth the same year: they were the first meteorites we've found to have both complex organic compounds like amino acids and hydrocarbons, and liquid water.

"Our coordinated organic analysis of the salt crystals suggest 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, "said planetary scientist Queenie Chan, study author and postdoctoral research associate at The Open University in the UK".

20 years after they landed on earth, meteorite fragments studied by scientists were known to contain organic elements considered as ingredients to life.

From there, the team says, it's possible that biomolecules or even microscopic life could be trapped in the salt crystals and transported around the cosmos. The detailed analysis of the chemical structure of the minuscule purple and blue salt crystals, taken from the meteorites provided certain evidence for the past interactions of the meteor along with the point of origin. The rocks were not the first of their kind to visit the planet, but they were the first meteorites found to contain ingredients essential for life.

These include Ceres, a dwarf planet that is the largest object in the main asteroid belt, and the asteroid Hebe, a major source of meteorites that fall on Earth. One of the meteorites hit Earth near a children's basketball game in Texas in March 1998 while the other hit near Morocco in August in the same year.


In the meantime the affluent sediments of organic remains recuperated from the meteorites don't offer any evidence of life outside of Earth, Kilcoyne said that the meteorites' engulfment of rich chemistry is similar to the conservation of primordial insects in solidified sap droplets.

A halite crystal found in a meteorite, which measures less than a millimeter across.

It took scientists nearly two decades to comprehensively analyze samples from the pair of meteorites that were believed to have existed some 4.5 billion years ago. The crystals were around two millimeters in size and contained organic solids and water traces a mere fraction of the width of human hair.

"We conducted our experiments in one of the cleanest laboratories in the world at the Nasa Johnson Space Centre, which avoided any contamination from things such as dust in the air".

That makes them enticing for further study, so an worldwide team of scientists analyzed the organic compounds in 2-mm long salt crystals inside the two meteorites. "There is a great range of organic compounds within these meteorites, including a very primitive type of organics that likely represent the early solar system's organic composition". The results were published in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday.

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