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Meteorite reveals extraterrestrial compounds

Date: 30 October 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

A meteorite that landed on a frozen lake in 2018 contains thousands of organic compounds that formed billions of years ago and could hold clues about the origins of life on Earth.

 

 

Details

  • Analysis revealed more than 2,000 organic molecules dating to when our solar system was young; similar compounds may have seeded the emergence of microbial life on our planet.

  • Scientists believe the Hamburg meteorite was ejected from its parent asteroid about 12 million years ago, travelling through space until it landed on Earth. 

  • Swift recovery of the meteorite from the lake's frozen surface prevented liquid water from seeping into cracks and contaminating the sample with terrestrial spores and microbes.

  • This maintained the space rock's pristine state, enabling experts to more easily evaluate its composition. 

  • The Michigan meteorite's ratio of uranium (isotopes 238 and 235) to the element's decayed state as lead (isotopes 207 and 206) told the scientists that the parent asteroid formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

  • Around that time, the rock underwent a process called thermal metamorphism, as it was subjected to temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit (700 degrees Celsius). After that, the asteroid's composition stayed mostly unchanged for the last 3 billion years. 

  • The transformation from extraterrestrial organic compounds into the first microbial life on Earth is "a big step" that is still shrouded in mystery, but evidence suggests that organics are common in meteorites.

  • Meteor bombardment was also more frequent for a young Earth than it is today so there are high chances of meteor bringing life to Earth.