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

CNN  A blue crystal recovered from a meteorite that fell near Morocco in 1998

CNN A blue crystal recovered from a meteorite that fell near Morocco in 1998

In a first, scientists have found the presence of organic matter - the ingredients essential for life - in two liquid-water-containing space meteorites that separately crashed to Earth in 1998 after circulating in our solar system's asteroid belt for billions of years.

"This proves to us the salt crystals and the meteorites come from two different asteroids".

Amino acids form the basis of proteins and hydrocarbons are organic compounds made up of hydrogen and carbon that are extremely common in living beings.

"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 Dr. Queenie Chan, a planetary scientist and postdoctoral researcher at the Open University, UK.

Dr Chan added: 'Each salt crystal, which is about two millimetres in size and the colour of a blue sapphire, is essentially a little package full of organic compounds and the necessary building blocks of life.

David Kilcoyne, a scientist at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS), which offered X-rays that were used to scrutinize the samples' organic chemical constituents, including carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen said that it can be equated to fly in the amber. You may submit it for our evaluation here and if you do, I might reconsider the claim that we're anywhere closer today to understanding the origin of life than we were before these space rocks were closely studied. They may have come from the asteroid Hebe and the dwarf planet Ceres.

That makes them enticing for further study, so an global team of scientists analyzed the organic compounds in 2-mm long salt crystals inside the two meteorites. The traces of water in the crystals are believed to almost 4.5 billion years old.

A halite crystal found in a meteorite, which measures less than a millimeter across.

"There are also clues, based on the organic chemistry and space observations, that the crystals may have originally been seeded by ice- or water-spewing volcanic activity on Ceres". The journal Science Advances carried the findings of this study which included a well-detailed chemical structure analysis of the organic matter present in the rocks. "There is a great range of organic compounds within these meteorites, including a very primitive type of organics that likely represent the early solar system's organic composition".

"Everything leads to the conclusion that the origin of life is really possible elsewhere", says Chan.