In a major discovery, scientists have found that the Sutter’s Mill meteorite, which burst into a spectacular fireball over California in 2012, holds unexpected ingredients for life — organic molecules never seen before in meteorites.
The discovery has been revealed in a news release from Arizona State University.
Meteorite fragments from the event may shed light on the primordial ooze that helped give rise to life on Earth, researchers said.
“Their composition therefore has always been seen as an indication that the precursors to the evolution that led to the origins of life could have come from the extraterrestrial material of meteorites,” study lead author Sandra Pizzarello, a biochemist at Arizona State University in Tempe, said. “Since the origins of life are utterly unknown, the idea has its merits,” she adds.
The scientists analyzed two fragments of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite. Fragments of this meteorite were given to researchers who have worked on similar rocks before, including Pizzarello.
The scientists hydrothermally treated pieces of the meteorite and then identified the compounds discharged by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.
The hydrothermal settings of the experiments, which also mirror early Earth conditions, discharged an intricate combination of oxygen-rich compounds, the likely result of oxidative processes that took place in the parent body.
“They involve a number of long chain linear and branched polyethers, whose quantity is very perplexing,” researchers say.
This addition to the stock of organic compounds generated in alien conditions advances the discussion of whether their dispatch to the early Earth by comets and meteorites might have helped the molecular development that predated the origins of life.
The findings of the study are published on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.