A team of researchers from the Berkley Lab at the Department of Energy organized a deep study of two meteorites that fell on Earth in the year 1998 to find evidence proving the presence of liquid water as well as a well-structured mix of complex organic compounds that included amino acids as well as hydrocarbons. These organic compounds make up an essential part of life on Earth.
These pair of meteorites crashed in two separate places on Earth after completing circulations on the asteroid belt of our solar system for hundreds of billions of years. These space rocks carry similarities with our planet when it boils down to the basic ingredients of our life. The detailed analysis of the chemical structure of the minuscule purple and blue salt crystals, taken from the meteorites provided certain evidence for the past interactions of the meteor along with the point of origin.
The origin story of the meteors boils down to two places, the first being Ceres, which is a brown dwarf planet and the largest object found in the adjoining asteroid belt. The second point of origin has been estimated to be the asteroid Hebe which is a significant source for the meteorites that fall down on Earth. The journal Science Advances carried the findings of this study which included a well-detailed chemical structure analysis of the organic matter present in the rocks. This effectively opens a whole new chapter to the historical phase of our vast space while providing details about the presence of life beyond the Earthly realms.
The strong organic structure decoded from the meteorites does not provide a full proof evidence for the presence of life beyond Earth. However, the organic chemistry of the same is somewhat relatable to the preservation aspect of prehistoric insects as solidified droplets of sap. Further, the study raises a possibility of encapsulating life or similar bio-molecules inside their salt-like crystals. Upon close observation, scientists found traces of liquid water that dated to a time that was the initial stage of our solar system which is 4.5 billion years old.
Both the rocks showing evidence of similar organic structures point out to the fact that the parent asteroids of the rocks might have crossed each other during their journey thereby resulting in an exchange of materials. The meteorite remains also suggest a possible impact which happened when a larger body was struck by a smaller one which might have resulted in the exchange of materials.
The team used numerous evolved techniques to carefully analyze the microscopic salt crystals inside the rocks which provided an in-depth study of the organic chemistry dominating the rocks. An ALS X-ray beamline in conjunction with X-ray microscope along with XANES ray technique helped in measuring the specific amount of each element down to the accurate precision which was tens of nanometers.
The researchers are still left with a lot more samples to be studied to obtain an accurate answer to the presence of life in the endless space. An associate professor of engineering, Yoko Kebuwaka, at Yokohama National University in Japan stated that the team has many more variations remaining to study for the complexity of organic molecules present inside the crystals which might provide better insights in future for the possibility of life.