Friday, June 10, 2011

A Meteorite With an Organic Signature?

ScienceDaily has an excellent story on the Tagish Lake Meteorite, known as a carbonaceous chondrite. It seems that the great rock from the sky has chemicals that are similar to the proposed prebiotic organic material on earth, lending more credence to the idea that early life may have had an extraterrestrial impetus. The story notes:

If--as many have speculated--the organic material in meteorites had a role to play in the origin of life on Earth, the attraction of the common-source hypothesis is that the same organic material would have been delivered to all bodies in the Solar System. If the common source was the interstellar medium, then similar material would also be delivered to any forming planetary system.

The research team -- led by Christopher Herd of the University of Alberta, Canada, and including Carnegie's Conel Alexander, Larry Nittler, Frank Gyngard, George Cody, Marilyn Fogel, and Yoko Kebukawa -- studied four meteorite specimens from the shower of stones, produced by the breakup of a meteoroid as it entered the atmosphere, that fell on Tagish Lake in northern Canada in January 2000. The samples are considered very pristine, because they fell on a frozen lake, were collected without hand contact within a few days of landing and have remained frozen ever since.

According to the story, If these meteorites were part of a larger group of meteors or one larger body, it may be that they were part of the original body that formed the solar system. Sort of takes the “how could life on earth happen by pure chance” argument and turns it on its ear.

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