Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Organic Compounds in Murchison Meteor: Lots of Them

"Meteorite That Fell in 1969 Still Revealing Secrets of the Early Solar System"
Scientific American (February 15, 2010)

"Fragments of a chemically primitive meteorite that landed near Murchison, Australia, in 1969 have long been known to harbor a variety of interesting compounds, including dozens of amino acids. But as analytic techniques become more sophisticated, the Murchison meteorite continues to reveal even more diversity and complexity in the early solar system, and new work by a team of European researchers is no exception...."

"...The group found more than 14,000 unique molecular compositions, or collections of atoms, in the samples; there may be 50,000 or more such compositions, if the limited scope of the mass spectrometry analysis is taken into account. And because each collection of atoms can be arranged in numerous ways, the authors estimate that there may be millions of distinct organic compounds in the meteorite...."

There's quite a difference between "organic" and "living," but this is exciting news. It looks like the chemical parts necessary for living creatures were in the Solar system before the sun and planets started forming.

And, since our star isn't all that far off the 50th percentile, other stars may have had the same 'heat and stir' mix for growing life, too.

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