Life’s Building Blocks Found on Surprising Meteorite
Scientists have discovered amino acids, the building blocks of life in a meteorite where none were expected.
The finding adds evidence to the idea that some of life’s key ingredients could have formed in space, and then been delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite impacts.
The meteorite in question was born in a violent crash, and eventually crashed into northern Sudan.
"This meteorite formed when two asteroids collided," said Daniel Glavin of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The shock of the collision heated it to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit [1,093 degrees Celsius], hot enough that all complex organic molecules like amino acids should have been destroyed, but we found them anyway."
This is a NASA Hubble Space Telescope picture of what was first thought to be a comet but is probably an asteroid collision. The inset picture shows a complex structure that suggests the object is not a comet but instead the product of a head-on collision between two asteroids traveling five times faster than a rifle bullet (about three miles per second). The collision created a meteorite that was found to contain amino acids. Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)
Amino acids are the molecules used to build the proteins that are essential to life.
"Finding them in this type of meteorite suggests that there is more than one way to make amino acids in space, which increases the chance for finding life elsewhere in the universe," Glavin said in a statement.
The proteins created from amino acids are used in everything from structures like hair to enzymes, the catalysts that speed up or regulate chemical reactions. Just as the 26 letters of the alphabet are arranged in limitless combinations to make words, life uses 20 different amino acids in a huge variety of arrangements to build millions of different proteins.
In previous missions, scientists found amino acids in samples of Comet Wild 2, and in various carbon-rich meteorites. Finding amino acids in these objects supports the theory that the origin of life got a boost from space.
But when Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., approached NASA with the suggestion to search for amino acids in the carbon-rich remnants of asteroid 2008 TC3, most scientists expected none to be found.
Because of an unusually violent collision in the past, this asteroid’s amino acids were scrambled and now mostly in the form of graphite.
A meteorite sample was divided between the Goddard lab and a lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.
"Our analyses confirm those obtained at Goddard," said Jeffrey Bada of Scripps, who led the study there. The extremely sensitive equipment in both labs detected small amounts of 19 different amino acids in the sample, ranging from 0.5 to 149 parts per billion.
The team had to be sure that the amino acids in the meteorite didn’t come from contamination on Earth, and they were able to do so because of the way amino acids are made. Amino acid molecules can be built in two ways that are mirror images of each other, like your hands. Life on Earth uses left-handed amino acids, and they are never mixed with right-handed ones, but the amino acids found in the meteorite had equal amounts of the left and right-handed varieties.
The sample had various minerals that only form under high temperatures, indicating it was forged in a violent collision. It’s possible that the amino acids are simply leftovers from one of the original asteroids in the collision — an asteroid that had better conditions for amino acid formation.
Jennifer Blank of SETI has done experiments with amino acids in water and ice, showing they survive pressures and temperatures comparable to a low-angle comet-Earth impact or asteroid-asteroid collisions.
However, the team thinks it’s unlikely amino acids could have survived the conditions that created the meteorite, which endured higher temperatures — more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (over 1,100 degrees Celsius) — over a much longer period.
"It would be hard to transfer amino acids from an impactor to another body simply because of the high-energy conditions associated with the impact," Bada said.
Instead, the team believes there’s an alternate method of creating amino acids in space.
"Previously, we thought the simplest way to make amino acids in an asteroid was at cooler temperatures in the presence of liquid water. This meteorite suggests there’s another way involving reactions in gases as a very hot asteroid cools down," Glavin said.
The team is planning experiments to test various gas-phase chemical reactions to see if they generate amino acids.
Fragments of 2008 TC3 are collectively called "Almahata Sitta" or "Station Six" after the train stop in northern Sudan near the location where pieces were recovered. They are prized because they are Ureilites, a rare type of meteorite.
"An interesting possibility is that Ureilites are thought by some researchers to have formed in the solar nebula and thus the findings of amino acids in Almahata Sitta might imply that amino acids were in fact synthesized very early in the history of the solar system," Bada said.
The study is detailed in the Dec. 15 edition of the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
Article from: space.com
Also tune into:
Michael Mautner - Panspermia, Seeding the Universe with Life
Lloyd Pye - Human Origins, Intervention Theory & Genetic Experimentation
Michael Cremo - Forbidden Archeology
Mike Bara - Dark Mission, The Occult NASA Moon Mission
Barbara Hand Clow - The Last Day of the Mayan Calendar, Neptunian Energies & Galactic Changes
J. Craig Venter Create Synthetic Life - Could it Wipe out Humanity?
The Gore Report - Life on Mars Discussed by Rush Limbaugh in 2004 - The Mars Bloodline
Odds of Life on Newfound Earth-Size Planet ’100 Percent,’ Astronomer Says (Approaching disclosure?)
"Biocentrism": How life creates the universe
Strange Discovery on Titan Leads to Speculation of Alien Life
NASA: Evidence of life on Mars
Professor: We have a ’moral obligation’ to seed universe with life - Panspermia
They’re heeeere? Scientists say alien life could already be lurking among, or even in, us
The Extraordinary Tale of Red Rain, Comets and Extraterrestrials
Search on for Death Star that throws out deadly comets
Comet-like object possibly smashed asteroid?
Tunguska: 101-years-long deadly comet tail
Unusual Green Comet Thrills Stargazers
Has an alien comet infiltrated the solar system?
Did Comets Cause Ancient American Extinctions?
Latest News from our Front Page
The TSA Wants To Read Your Facebook Posts And Check Out Your Purchases Before It Will Approve You For PreCheck
The TSA is disappointed that so few Americans have opted out of its bottle-tossing, package-groping screenings by signing up for its PreCheck program. For a few years now, the TSA has been selling travelers' civil liberties back to them, most recently for $85 a head, but it's now making a serious push to increase participation. The TSA can't do it ...
What Happens To Privacy When The Internet Is In Everything?
This week Google’s Eric Schmidt was on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he suggested that the future Internet will be, in one sense, invisible — because it will be embedded into everything we interact with.
“The Internet will disappear,” he predicted (via The Hollywood Reporter). “There will be so many IP addresses…so many devices, sensors, things ...
Harvard Professor: Government Mosquito Drones will Extract Your DNA
"Privacy is dead," academic tells Davos elite
Harvard Professor Margo Seltzer warned that miniature mosquito drones will one day forcibly extract your DNA on behalf of the government and insurance companies as she told elitists at the World Economic Forum in Davos that privacy was dead.
Seltzer, a professor in computer science at Harvard University, told attendees, “Privacy as we knew it ...
Netanyahu ‘spat in our face,’ White House officials said to say
The White House’s outrage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to speak before Congress in March — a move he failed to coordinate with the administration — began to seep through the diplomatic cracks on Friday, with officials telling Haaretz the Israeli leader had “spat” in President Barack Obama’s face.
“We thought we’ve seen everything,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior ...
Creators of martial law film "Grey State" found dead, reported as murder-suicide
The creator of a not-yet-completed film about a central government takeover of society following a collapse and his family have been found dead in their Minnesota home, with authorities claiming that the deaths were the result of a murder-suicide.
As reported by the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis, David Crowley, 29, his wife, Komel, 28, and their 5-year-old daughter were found ...
|More News » |