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

13 January 2018

The meteorites fell to Earth in 1998 but the technology available at that time did not have the capability to detect traces of amino acids.

A team of researchers from the Berkley Lab at the Department of Energy organized a deep study of two meteorites that fell on Earth in the year 1998 to find evidence proving the presence of liquid water as well as a well-structured mix of complex organic compounds that included amino acids as well as hydrocarbons. They may have come from the asteroid Hebe and the dwarf planet Ceres.

"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".

Experts first examined the rocks when the hit Earth in the U.S. state of Texas and Morocco in 1998. Kilcoyne was part of the worldwide research team that prepared the study.

According to Chan, the meteorites contain organic ingredients that can lead to the origin of life, but the recovered remnants don't necessarily provide any proof of life outside of Earth.

"What makes our analysis so special is that we combined a lot of different state-of-the-art techniques to comprehensively study the organic components of these tiny salt crystals", says Dr. Queenie Chan from The Open University, UK and first author of the paper in the press release from Berkeley University.

These are the essential ingredients for alien life to form.

Further, the study raises a possibility of encapsulating life or similar bio-molecules inside their salt-like crystals. The rocks had been preserved at NASA's Johnson Space Center, and fragments were carefully removed and then tested with an X-ray beamline and microscope, as well as other chemical experiments.

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To me it falls into the spirit of the game and I was making that point to George ... but he is quite entitled to do it differently", he added.

These boys were playing basketball when a meteorite burrowed into the asphalt just yards away from their game on March 22, 1998. Eventually, they landed on a second asteroid, where they were buried by other rock-until that asteroid too shed them in the form of the meteorites that carried them to Earth.

"Things are not as simple as we thought they were", Dr. Chan said.

Piecing together all the clues they gathered, the scientists think that the salt crystals themselves formed as crusts on the surface of an asteroid like Ceres.

Scientists believe that this discovery leads to the conclusion that the origin of life is possible elsewhere. The crystals were around two millimeters in size and contained organic solids and water traces a mere fraction of the width of human hair.

Using spectrometers and ion beams, scientists could look at the molecular composition of salt crystals found in the meteorites.

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.

The journal Science Advances published the research this week.

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