Molecules found in meteorite are organic precursors to life

Credit: Astrobob

Apparently, organic molecules aren't only found at your local Whole Foods — scientists have found some in a meteorite that landed in California last year. The meteorite, named the Sutter's Mill meteorite for where some chunks of it landed, arced over California in a fireball and exploded into pieces back in 2012. Last November, scientists from the Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute used an airship to photograph the area where it landed, and were able to locate about 75 pieces of the rock.

Samples of the meteorite were studied by a team of scientists at Arizona State University. By applying hydrothermal treatments which replicate the early weather on the Earth (like near volcanoes and craters), they were able to discover organic molecules such as oxygen-containing compounds as well as intricate polyether and ester-containing alkyl molecules.

The molecules' prebiotic characteristics made them different from compounds found in any other meteorites so far. This suggests that other meteorites or space materials might contain similar, if not the same, organic compounds. It also suggests that early Earth life may have benefited from the organic molecules found in these space rocks, and opens up the possibility that other planets in other star systems could have benefited as well.

Discovery, via PNAS

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