The Huffington Post, Joanna Zelman
First Posted: 3/2/11 08:38 AM ET
Updated: 5/25/11 07:35 PM ET
A meteorite discovered in Antarctica may help to reveal how life on earth began.
Many theories suggest that Earth initially did not possess the molecules needed to begin primitive life. Thus, scientists have been searching for what caused life on earth to begin.
One theory holds that collisions between asteroids produced meteoroids, which carried materials to Earth. Meteorite expert Dr. Caroline Smith believes one element that earth needed for life was nitrogen, which is in ammonia. She tells BBC News, “A lot of the evidence shows that ammonia was not present in much abundance in the early Earth, so where did it come from?”
Enter meteorite Grave Nunataks 95229. The meteorite was discovered in 1995, and a powder sample reveals that the meteorite contains nitrogen, the same element found in proteins and DNA that originate life.
Based on this finding, researchers published a revealing report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Lead researcher Professor Sandra Pizzarello believes that meteorites “could have showered the Earth with an attractive mix of components, including a large amount of ammonia.” Given enough nitrogen, these meteorites may have given earth the ability to form primitive life. As BBC News explains, meteorites may have provided “the missing ingredients for life.”
Other findings have recently offered explanations as to how life on Earth began and evolved. An asteroid covered in ice, 24 Themis, may reveal how Earth first got its water. The same asteroid contained organic molecules, which also could have contributed to life on earth.
New research may be bringing us closer to discovering the world’s most important secret ingredient.