EERIE BLUE SPACE ROCKS CONTAIN INGREDIENTS VITAL FOR LIFE
Tiny crystals found embedded in two meteorites contain water and complex organic compounds – ingredients essential for the development of life.
The crystal fragments were painstakingly extracted from two different meteorites, named Monahans and Zag, that have been stored at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas since they landed in 1998. Monahans smashed into the ground in Texas in March that year, while Zag plunged to Earth near Morocco in the August.
Cutting-edge X-ray scans of the crystals showed them to contain a range of organic chemical components including carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, as well as amino acids needed to form proteins. They also carried microscopic traces of water believed to date back to the infancy of the Solar System about 4.5 billion years ago.
“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 the Open University’s Dr Queenie Chan. “We’re looking at the organic ingredients that can lead to the origin of life.”
A detailed study of the chemistry of the tiny blue and purple crystals suggests they may have originally been seeded by volcanic activity on Ceres, which is a brown dwarf planet that is the largest object in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
“Things are not as simple as we thought they were,” Chan said. “Everything leads to the conclusion that the origin of life is really possible elsewhere. There is a great range of organic compounds within these meteorites, including very primitive type of organics that likely represent the early Solar System’s organic composition.”
This blue crystal, which contains water and compounds essential for life, was found within the Zag meteorite