This Martian meteorite is rich in the building blocks of life

Researchers at the University of Hawaii have discovered what just might be martian primordial clay. There isn't exactly life in it, but rather life's precursor. The meteorite was discovered during an Antarctic expedition in 2010, but only recently has its true rarity been discovered.

Enter University of Hawaii at Manoa NASA Astrobiology Institute (UHNAI) postdoctoral fellow James Stephenson. Over an after-work beer, Stephenson's colleague and cosmochemist Lydia Hallis told him how scant the study of meteorites for the building blocks of life had been. Moreover, she mentioned that the University of Hawaii was equipped with everything they'd need to do that sort of research.

Stephenson was shocked. He had thought, since boron was already well established as a key factor in the creation of RNA — and meteorites have long been contenders for the origins of life on Earth — that studying it in meteorites had already been done. And so he and Hallis got their hands on the little martian rock that had been unearthed in 2010. What they found in the meteorite was not only the presence of boron, some 700 million years old, but over ten times the boron ever found to exist in any meteorite ever before.

"Earth and Mars used to have much more in common than they do today. Over time, Mars has lost a lot of its atmosphere and surface water, but ancient meteorites preserve delicate clays from wetter periods in Mars’ history," explains Hallis. Thanks to the research she and Stephenson have done, those wetter periods she's talking about seem even more likely than ever to have been home to Martian life.

Via the Institute for Astronomy, Hawaii

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