Science

Crystals From Extraterrestrial Rocks Contain Building Blocks Of Early Life

Crystals From Extraterrestrial Rocks Contain Building Blocks Of Early Life”

These pair of meteorites crashed in two separate places on Earth after completing circulations on the asteroid belt of our solar system for hundreds of billions of years.

An global team, including scientists from the Open University (OU) in the United Kingdom and Nasa Johnson Space Centre in Texas, found amino acids - which form the basis of proteins, hydrocarbons - organic compounds made up of hydrogen and carbon, and liquid water - the most important ingredient required to support life, within the salt crystals.

The most basic ingredients for life have been discovered in two ancient meteorites, some 20 years after they were discovered.

Although it's not exactly proof that life exists beyond Earth, the traces of water in the salt crystals could date to the earliest days of our solar system.

"We're looking at the organic ingredients that can lead to the origin of life, including the amino acids needed to form proteins".

"Everything leads to the conclusion that the origin of life is really possible elsewhere". The traces of water in both meteorites are direct evidence of the chemical makeup of a water-rich world in the outer solar system. The scientists likened the discovery to a fly in amber.

Dwarf planet Ceres

A blue crystal recovered from a meteorite that fell near Morocco in 1998.

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 scientists think the meteorites originated from asteroids like Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt and considered potentially habitable, and Hebe, another relatively large asteroid, which might be close enough to exchange materials the way subway riders exchange germs. Samples from the space rocks were preserved at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Experts used mass spectrometers, which detect different molecules based on their size, and beams of electrically charged particles called ions to study the chemical composition of the organic materials.

"We revealed that the organic matter was somewhat similar to that found in primitive meteorites, but contained more oxygen-bearing chemistry", study co-author Yoko Kebukawa said.

"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". 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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