The UK meteorite that fell to Earth contains the building blocks of life

The significance of the first meteorite was collected in the UK 30 years ago to be seen dripping, confirmed by the discovery of amino acids – organic compounds necessary for life on Earth. The concentration of amino acids and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is not as high as in some other asteroid remnants (only 1.1 and 6.2 ppm, respectively), but this could make the discovery more interesting.

Not only does the Winchcombe meteorite contain organic material, it also appears to represent a new class of meteorites, new paper reports. Some of the material in it has been altered in ways that suggest at least three short bursts of liquid water on the asteroid body it came from.

Meteors don’t reach Earth without creating a stunning sky show, at least at night. Thanks to the advent of personal cameras and Fireball tracking networks We are now increasingly able to determine the flight paths of objects, using this to calculate the orbits of asteroids and where meteorites come from. When the meteorite’s composition can be matched to its past orbit together, it greatly enhances the potential contribution to understanding the evolution of the solar system. Details from the UK’s Fireball Network made Winchcombe one of the first 40 meteors whose origins can be traced within the asteroid belt.

Almost immediately, it turned out that this was an important discovery; Within two weeks of the possibility of the presence of water-bearing minerals It has been reported. as carbonaceous chondrites, which make up only 4 percent of meteorites and may have Classified life on EarthWinchcombe popped up.

“Studying the organic inventory of the Winchcombe meteorite has provided us with a window into the past, how a simple kick of chemistry started the genesis of life at the birth of our solar system,” he said. Doctor Queenie Chan from Royal Holloway University of London in a statment. Discover the prelude to this life organic molecules It allowed us to understand the fall of similar material on the Earth’s surface, before the emergence of life on our planet.

The fact that the first four pieces that survived were collected within 12 hours of landing, allowing little time for contamination, added to the value of the meteorite. In fact, since the abundance of organic matter in the meteorite was ten times lower than in other carbonaceous chondrites, it might have been indistinguishable from terrestrial contamination had it not been retrieved so quickly. As it is, some of the amino acids found are very rare on Earth, confirming their extraterrestrial origins.

The Winchcombe stones have a number of features not previously seen in meteorites, including a low abundance of carbonaceous chondrite amino acids but unusual ratios between amino acids and the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons present. Combined with the incomplete conversion of Winchcombe’s components into solid rock, this has led the authors to speculate that Winchcombe could represent a new, previously unstudied class of meteorite.

Perhaps in part because of its weak structure, very few of the Winchcombe meteorite have made it to Earth. Only 600 grams (1.3 lb) were recovered, compared to 27 kilograms (60 lb) for carbonaceous chondrites. I landed in Costa Rica in 2019. This prevented some forms of analysis that required pooled samples.

As with most asteroids, Winchcombe is believed to have originally been part of a large asteroid, and the piece that slammed into Earth’s atmosphere was shattered in a collision long before it wandered through space.

The paper is published in open access Meteorites and Planetary Science.

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