Components for life disclosed in meteorites

Saturday, 13 Jan, 2018

Experts first examined the rocks when the hit Earth in the U.S. state of Texas and Morocco in 1998.

Study lead author, Dr Queenie Chan, a postdoctoral researcher at the UK's Open University, said: "We collected the tiny salt crystals from the meteorites and dissolved them in water so that we could extract the amino acids and separate any organic compounds to analyse them". You may submit it for our evaluation here and if you do, I might reconsider the claim that we're anywhere closer today to understanding the origin of life than we were before these space rocks were closely studied.

Two headstrong space rocks, that independently wrecked into earth in 1998, after transmitting in our solar system's asteroid belt for eons, have something else to share; the components of life. Similarities of the crystals found in the meteorites are also structural clues the two might have collided with each other and mixed fragments and materials. 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.

While these crystals do not provide a proof of life beyond Earth because complex organic compounds like protein-forming amino acids are yet to be found, they do support the idea that meteorites could trap biomolecules or even microscopic life which could ultimately reveal where life exists or may have existed in the past. These encompass Ceres, a brown dwarf planet that is a huge entity in the asteroid belt, and the asteroid Hebe, a considerable origin of meteorites that cascade on Earth.

The two meteorites, which yielded the two-millimetre-sized salt crystals, were preserved at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Texas. The traces of water in the crystals are believed to almost 4.5 billion years old.

Back then, only liquid water was found in the two meteorites.

Dr Chan added: 'We believe that the salt may have originated in Ceres or some other carbon-rich asteroid body, while the meteorites come from a different parent body - one that has been heated to 950°C (1750°F) so any trace of liquid water present in it would have gone.

As carbon is the basic building block of all life forms on earth, the report has raised questions about the possibilities of life elsewhere in our solar system. "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".

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