Fireball meteorite offers clues to origins of life

According to a new paper, a meteorite that crashed in Michigan in 2018 contained organic matter. The findings support the panspermia theory and could explain the origins of life on Earth. The organic components of the meteorite were exceptionally well preserved.

Another surprise awaited a meteorite that blasted through the night sky above Michigan and fell into a frozen lake. A new study discovered that it contained 2,600 “pristine” organic molecules of extraterrestrial origin, which can reveal information about the origins of life here on Earth.

Weather radar was used by researchers to track down the components of the space rock that landed on Strawberry Lake near Hamburg, Michigan on January 16, 2018. The meteorite hunters were able to gather up the scattered parts before they changed their chemical constitution by being exposed to liquid water.

The meteorite was remarkable in that it fell onto a frozen lake and was soon discovered, according to the paper’s lead author, Philipp Heck, a curator at the Field Museum and associate professor at the University of Chicago. This preserved it as close to how it was in space as possible.

“We could see the minerals weren’t much altered and later found that it contained a rich inventory of extraterrestrial organic compounds,” said Heck. “These kinds of organic compounds were likely delivered to the early Earth by meteorites and might have contributed to the ingredients of life.”

Check out this video of the meteorite streaking across the Michigan sky –

Meteor flashes across the sky in Michigan

In the first place, where did the meteorite come from? Scientists think it broke off from an asteroid that was orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. It began as a 6-foot rock above the Earth, but when it landed on the ground, it was only the size of a peach pit.

Scientists tracked the meteorite as it approached Michigan utilizing NASA’s weather radar, which can detect hail and rain. “These pieces of meteorite fell into that size range, and so weather radar helped show the position and velocity of the meteorite,” explained Heck. As a result, the meteorite was discovered quickly. Robert Ward, a meteorite hunter, discovered the first piece of the celestial visitor on the frozen surface of the lake in just two days.

The pristine extraterrestrial organic components were carried by the meteorite that smashed into Strawberry Lake.

The meteorite that smashed into Strawberry Lake carried pristine extraterrestrial organic compounds. Credit: Field Museum

The finding of organic components on the meteorite is not the same as finding a full-fledged alien, but the existence of carbon-containing compounds lends support to the theory of panspermia. It is proposed that such space rocks spread the components required for life throughout the Universe.

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