Signs of Life Found in 4.5 Billion Year Old Meteorites
A group of scientists recently found evidence of the ingredients for life in two meteorites that landed on Earth some 20 years ago. The two specimens, named Zag and Monahans, were found when one crashed near a group of boys playing basketball in Texas, while the other crash landed in Morocco a few months later.
According to a study published in Science Advances the meteorites contain liquid water, carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen trapped inside salt crystals. One scientist compared the finding to a fly trapped in amber, as the meteorites are likely to be 4.5 billion years old and contain the basic elements necessary for life.
“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 Queenie Chan, the study’s lead author and planetary scientist at The Open University in the U.K.
The meteorites are thought to have originated from two celestial bodies,Hebe and Ceres, that orbit in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is thought that, due to the similarity of the meteorites, the two may have impacted each other and mixed material.
NASA scientists have been intrigued by Ceres lately, continuing the Dawn spacecraft’s mission to study the dwarf planet two and a half years longer than intended.
Ceres is the largest object within the asteroid belt and could potentially harbor life. NASA believes that there once may have been a vast ocean on the dwarf planet and are sending Dawn within 20 miles of Ceres to study its surface.
There are still other preserved crystals from the meteorites that have yet to be studied by scientists who are hoping to find further evidence of liquid water and other life-supporting elements.