NASA Analyzes Possible Life in Meteorite

NASA

NASA analyses find possible life components in meteorites and samples from asteroids. Lawrence LeBlond, of redOrbit, reports meteors to be only one of several forms of “extraterrestrial” objects to bombard Earth.  The other forms generally come as comic dust from comets and asteroids. What makes these pieces of metal or rock extraterrestrial though,  is by what is found within them and from where they hail.  Since 1958, NASA has been investigating comets and outer space, mostly in theory. Everyday now, there is a new advancement NASA has to share with public.

To differentiate between comets, asteroids, meteors, and meteorites Hubblesite explains, when rocks enter the atmosphere, people on Earth generally will see what appears to be a shooting star, but this “light” is actually a piece of rock or asteroid that burns up through the atmosphere. Meteoroid is a piece of “interplanetary matter,” Astronomers measure this classification as being any size smaller than a kilometer. Meteorites however, are any part of the meteoroid that makes it through the atmosphere without being completely incinerated before touching ground. Researchers generally agree, these are usually the size of a tiny stone. So the main difference between meteoroids and meteorites is their location.

Asteroids generally come from the “asteroid belt” between the two planets, Jupiter and Mars. Mike Opelka from the Blaze says asteroids are composed of rock, carbon, or metal and these compound rocks can be found orbiting the Sun.

And finally, HubbleSite defines comets to be similar objects as asteroids covered in compounds like ice or methane. The trail that people see in the sky is usually when this object moves close to the Sun.

Furthermore, NASA has been analyzing the building blocks of possible life in meteorites and meteoroids for some time. The Stardust-NExt mission is explained by Callahan’s team. It had a 12-year run, finding, collecting, and returning samples of comets back to NASA for analysis. The Stardust spacecraft traveled well over five billion kilometers until it was given one final order, to burn all fuel.  The spacecraft earned its retirement by all the minerals and compounds it brought to researchers.

There are many ways of detecting minerals and compounds in these samples.  But the Callahan’s team at Goddand’s Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory have a specific way of extracting the protein molecules from the meteorite. Callahan uses a chromatography instrument to sort through a sample size of 360 micrograms which is 1,000 times smaller than a typical sample size any other research group would be using.

What building blocks have been found? Michael P. Callahan et al.  explain carbonaceous meteorites to contain nucleobases. All terrestrial life depends on nucleic acids which are RNA and DNA.  Additionally, the chemistry of the carbonaceous chondrites match the chemical composition of the Sun more closely than any other chondrite, and this is one reason for the momentum of research building around this carbonaceous meteorites. At Meteorite.fr, the author posits a common belief that this matter  forms in oxygen-rich regions during early solar system formation.

Callahan mentions that there is controversy to his work.  There exists a debatable belief that carbon-rich meteorites have important sources of organic compounds required for life that would be found on early Earth.  But in their study, Callahan found the Murchison and Lonewolf Nunataks 94102 meteorites contained a diverse suite of nucleobases. Further research findings are to be expected. PBS  did a story on the connection of carbon-based meteorites and life on Earth in the segment, “Meteorites and Life.”  In 1969, it was the Murchison meteorite that has been cited to be proof of carbon molecules elsewhere in the universe, supporting all believer’s hope of extraterrestrial life.

Meteorites have been the center of attention in the field of science and space. There will even be some Olympic winners who are going to receive their gold medals with embedded fragments of the Chelyabinsk meteorite. This particular meteorite strike caused damage to the city of Chelyabinsk in the Urals. –RT News Question More It is many astronomers wish that these analyses studies conducted by NASA, will infallibly conclude that the start of life comes from meteorites, and this as just one possibility.

By Lindsey Alexander

PNAS.ORG
NASA
redOrbit.com

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