Research

Ingredients for life found in water-containing meteorites for 1st time

Ingredients for life found in water-containing meteorites for 1st time

A team of researchers from the United States, UK and Japan has found liquid water and a mix of complex organic compounds in 4.5-billion-year-old salt crystals preserved in two unique meteorites, Zag and Monahans, which separately crashed to Earth in 1998.

A detailed analysis of the chemical makeup within tiny blue and purple salt crystals sampled from the two meteorites, known as Monahans and Zag, found a mix of complex organic compounds such as hydrocarbons and amino acids, according to the study published Wednesday in the US journal Science Advances.

"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".

But if life did exist in some form in the early solar system, these salt crystal-containing meteorites raise the possibility of trapping life or biomolecules within their salt crystals, she said.

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

Although we don't know the full recipe, the key ingredients of life include liquid water and a host of organic compounds like amino acids. The scientists likened the discovery to a fly in amber. 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.

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With the samples having been stored on Earth for two decades, the scientists had to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure the two meteorites hadn't been contaminated.

Using a combination high-sensitivity mass spectrometers, which detect different molecules based on their size, and NanoSIMS equipment, which uses beams of ions to study the chemical composition of organic materials, the scientists were able to determine the chemical composition of the salt crystals.

Thankfully, 20 years of technological breakthroughs have meant that we're now able to get a better look at what's going on inside these meteors, and a new study from the Open University has proven absolutely fascinating.

According to a recent study the elemental inclusive chemical survey of organic matter and liquid water in salt crystals discovered in earth influencing meteorites.

The journal Science Advances published the research this week.


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