The argument that life on Earth may have been seeded from the stars just received a major boost, as scientists have found the building blocks of life inside a meteorite that landed in British Columbia in 2000.
The Tagish Lake meteorite landed in January of that year, a streaking fireball that burst into more than 500 fragments which rained down on the lake. In its trip from the outer reaches of the asteroid belt it burned down from 56 tonnes to 1.3, and deep inside the fragments there are the basic building blocks of life, including the amino acids, sugars and hydrocarbons that could have jump started life on our planet.
This meteorite is the only uncontaminated example we've ever found, thanks to the quick actions of the people who spotted it. What the researchers have found is that the organic compounds in the rock date back to the early days of the solar system, or possible predate it. A large parent body was formed in orbit around the star with chunks of ice trapped within. Over the billions of years that followed, the ice warmed, and the hydrothermal change altered the organic compounds. The large body has since broken up, and constitutes the carbonaceous chondrites meteorites that make their way to Earth. Within the samples discovered was organic matter that had properties that spanned properties found in other similar meteorites around the world — showing that the differing organic compound makeup of these rocks can come from a common precursor.
This is important because one of the theories of the origins of organic material is the common-source hypothesis, which would require all of this material to have come from a common origin. What this research has proved is that the diversity we've found in meteorites with organic remnants can be explained by the individual hydrothermal alterations that could happen while still in space. This could also mean that if we do ever find other life in this solar system, there's a pretty good chance we're related.
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