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Meteorites a rich source for primordial soup
Date:3/13/2008

Washington, DCThe organic soup that spawned life on Earth may have gotten generous helpings from outer space, according to a new study. Scientists at the Carnegie Institution have discovered concentrations of amino acids in two meteorites that are more than ten times higher than levels previously measured in other similar meteorites. This result suggests that the early solar system was far richer in the organic building blocks of life than scientists had thought, and that fallout from space may have spiked Earths primordial broth.

The study, by Marilyn Fogel of Carnegies Geophysical Laboratory and Conel Alexander of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism with Zita Martins of Imperial College London and two colleagues, will be published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science.*

Amino acids are organic molecules that form the backbone of proteins, which in turn build many of the structures and drive many of the chemical reactions inside living cells. The production of proteins is believed to constitute one of the first steps in the emergence of life. Scientists have determined that amino acids could also have formed in some environments on the early Earth, but the presence of these compounds in certain meteorites has led many researchers to look to space as a source.

The meteorites used for the study were collected in Antarctica in 1992 and 1995 and held in the meteorite collection at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Antarctica is the worlds richest hunting ground for meteorites, which are naturally concentrated in so-called blue ice regions and held in cold storage by the ice.

For the amino acid study, the researchers took small samples from three meteorites of a rare type called CR chondrites, thought to contain the oldest and the most primitive organic materials found in meteorites. CR chondrites date from the time of the solar systems formation. During an early phase of their history the meteorites were part
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Contact: Conel Alexander
alexande@dtm.ciw.edu
202-478-8478
Carnegie Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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