Water and other basic elements of life discovered in two meteorites.
It is the first time that meteorites, perhaps from Ceres, find not only the building blocks of life. But also the water necessary for chemical reactions.
Two rocks from Space precipitated separately on Earth in 1998 after having rotated in the Asteroid Belt for billions of years, share something very special. The ingredients of life and water. They are the first meteorites ever found to show both liquid water and a set of complex organic compounds. Such as hydrocarbons and amino acids.
The study was carried out on tiny salt crystals present in meteorites. Through X-ray analysis in the energy laboratories of Lawrence Berkeley Lab. The analysis also allowed to establish that the probable origin of the two meteorites is the dwarf planet Ceres. The largest object of the Asteroid Band. The study published in the journal Science Advances opens a new chapter in the narration of the ancient history of the Solar System and the geology of asteroids and makes the probability of finding life outside the Earth much higher.
THE BRICKS OF LIFE.
We often talk about the discovery of the building blocks of life in the Universe. What are the ones that really allowed life to be born, at least on Earth and for how we know it?
On our planet, all known life forms are based on the particular chemical properties of carbon. This chemical element possesses an almost unique property in the Universe: the ability to create bonds by easily composing extremely long and complex molecules. By interacting chemically with other molecules, it has allowed disorganized elements to organize and form increasingly complex structures. In the end, they are able to replicate and exploit sources of energy for their livelihood.
This is why all the molecules that contain at least one carbon atom are called organic molecules. With the exception of a family of oxides and hydroxides. Such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, the latter known as carbon dioxide ( CO2).
The propensity of carbon to form long chains of bonds has been the trump card for the birth of the first complex molecules. Rightly called precursors of life: amino acids and proteins.
In addition to carbon, amino acids contain hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, which together with carbon are the fundamental elements necessary for life. Of course, other elements, such as sulfur, are also used in life. They serve to produce energy for the main molecules.
The amino acids can then be grouped to form very long series of macromolecules with complex and intricate geometries. These are the proteins, molecules one step higher towards real life.
To return to the meteorites. All this water is extremely important. Because it is the element in which the chemical reactions that lead from simple elements to increasingly complex molecules can more easily occur.