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Meteorites Can Be Rich With the Ingredients of Life

Article written: 13 Mar , 2008
Updated: 26 Dec , 2015
by

How did life arise on Earth? How did we get from rocks and water to the abundance and variety that we see today? Perhaps the raw ingredients for life, amino acids, were delivered to Earth by a steady bombardment of meteorites. Researchers have turned up space rocks with concentrations of amino acids 10x higher than previously measured, raising hopes that the early Solar System was awash in organic material.

The study was done by Marilyn Fogel of Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory and Conel Alexander of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism with Zita Martins of Imperial College London and two colleagues, and will be published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

If you’re like me, the astronomy stuff’s fine, but the biology news is a little baffling (I forward the kids’ biology questions to my wife). Amino acids are organic molecules that form the backbone of proteins, which make much of life’s structures and drive chemical reactions in cells. Amino acids are naturally occurring, but they somehow came together to make the first proteins in the Earth’s early days.

The researchers took samples from three meteorites collected during recent expeditions to Antarctica. The meteorites are from a type called CR chondrites, which are through to contain ancient organic materials that date back to the earliest times of the Solar System. At one point, these meteorites were part of a larger “parent body”, which was later shattered by impacts.

One sample had few amino acids, but the other two had the highest concentration ever seen in primitive meteorites.

“The amino acids probably formed within the parent body before it broke up,” says Alexander. “For instance. ammonia and other chemical precursors from the solar nebula, or even the interstellar medium, could have combined in the presence of water to make the amino acids. Then, after the break up, some of the fragments could have showered down onto the Earth and the other terrestrial planets. These same precursors are likely to have been present in other primitive bodies, such as comets, that were also raining material onto the early Earth. ”

So this points to the conclusion that the early Solar System was a much richer source of organic molecules than researchers previously believed. And the constant rain of amino acid-laden meteorites would have delivered this material to the primordial soup where life first emerged.

Exactly how the amino acids became the first proteins… that’s still one of the biggest mysteries in science.

Original Source: Carnegie Institution for Science News Release


7 Responses

  1. Laszlo says

    Have we detected amino acids on any other planets yet? Duplication can occur w proteins & RNA to some extent, however experiments to recreate replicatory molecules from primevil soup has seriously stalled.
    It’s possible that life may have incubated w/i hydrothermal deep-sea vents protected from evolving tectonics. Electron transport (for producing ATP & anti-oxidation) could have used strong reducing agents such as sulphur, or even lithium. Thermal vents not only provide heat, but rich sources of trace minerals required by catalysts (manganese, zinc, copper, iron…)
    Meanwhile, back at the surface we didn’t have oxygen, atmosphere, uv-protection or even crust to stand on. Evolution started w archaibacter, cyanobacter, algae & decks of stromatolites(bacterial stacks almost resembling multicellular orgs). I think the big swing came w fungii(protista) from which we might have evolved (perhaps explaining our infatuation w psychedelic mushrooms?). This all started 3 billion or so ago. Photosynthetic algae & bacteria started oxygen production a couple billion yrs or so & the actual Cambrian epoch (where we got more interesting creatures than trilobites) began 560mya.
    Life as we know it thus happened in a ‘stellar flash’ preceded by supportive microflora. Max lifespan’s only another billion, assuming stewardship & reigning in war-mongerers). Small evolutionary window indeed!
    Amino acids consist of an amine(reduced nitrogen) connected to a carbon(w defining sidechain) connected to an oxidized carboxyl(CO2-). This ‘zwitterion’ forms very eficient primary bonds, so that the amine-carboxyl link ties amino acids together. Has anyone found 2 + amino acids conjoined into peptides yet? Here we’ve searched the cosmos, comets, meteors, moondust, marsdust… & “Where’s the beef?” Bring amino acids together into a primordial soup & they should stick together like astronomers on a starry night.
    Proteins are measured in kiloDaltons(thousands of hydrogens). We have scarcely found 2 rubbed together in matrimony. Remember this life-thing’s got to occur w/i a timely fashion…the terrestrial planet’s habitary zone lifetime. “Lookin for life in all the wrong places.” Les

  2. Linda Langston says

    Well, I know the Rock of Ages who created this beautiful universe, took of the clay and molded a man in His image and breathed life into him. He is the Parent Rock who is still creating and caring for his creation and we can’t imagine joys and new discoveries that on planet Heaven millions of light years away, yet at our appointed time, takes only a split second to get there!

    If we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved and we shall never be ashamed.
    Romans 10: 9-11

  3. Kay says

    I agree with the robot super computer above.

  4. MrBill says

    looking forward to the detail mr. cain…. KANE?

    lol…. C&C?

    http://www.cncden.com/cnc3_characters/kane.jpg

  5. shahid says

    hi my question is that if their is nothing wat will be there
    is god created every thing
    so who created god
    i know that god is god
    and one and the only who knew this question answer is only ALLAH
    why god created us man animal angels ghost earth

  6. A7 says

    What now?

  7. alokmohan says

    Whether life came from outside or here started since Arrhenius.

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