Ancient water-bearing meteorites found to host ingredients essential for life

Dwarf planet Ceres

Ancient "ocean world" may have seeded meteorites with life's ingredients

In 1998, two space rocks separately crashed to Earth after roaming around the solar system's asteroid belt for billions of years.

"This is really the first time we have found abundant organic matter also associated with liquid water that is really crucial to the origin of life and the origin of complex organic compounds in space", said lead author Queenie Chan, a planetary scientist and postdoctoral research associate at the Open University in Britain. Now, a comprehensive chemical analysis of the two meteorites suggests their organic matter could come from an ancient ocean world, giving them the potential to kickstart life wherever they land.

However, if life did exist in some form in the early solar system, these meteorites would have trapped life or biomolecules with their salt crystals that carried microscopic traces of water that might have existed when the solar system was still young - about 4.5 billion years ago.

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"Everything leads to the conclusion that the origin of life is really possible elsewhere", Chan added. The researchers compared it to finding a prehistoric fly preserved in amber. Now, after 20 long years, detailed analysis of the tiny blue and purple salt crystals that came from these meteorites has led scientists to the vital signs of life.

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.

"We revealed that the organic matter in these meteorites (Monahans smashed into the ground near a children's basketball game in Texas in March 1998 and Zag hit near Morocco in August 1998) was somewhat similar to that found in primitive meteorites, but contained more oxygen-bearing chemistry", said Dr. Yoko Kebukawa, from Yokohama National University, Japan.

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The researchers are still left with a lot more samples to be studied to obtain an accurate answer to the presence of life in the endless space.

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.

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

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Experiments on the salt crystals were conducted in the cleanest laboratories of the NASA Johnson Space Center to avoid the contamination from foreign elements such as dust in the air.

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