Research highlight

Meteorite impacts may have helped spawn life on Earth

Nature Geoscience

December 8, 2008

Impacts in the early oceans from the most common type of meteorites may have generated some of the complex organic molecules necessary for life, reports a study online in Nature Geoscience.

Although many of the starting elements of life were present on early Earth, it is unclear how they became organized into the building blocks of life. Yoshihiro Furukawa and colleagues used a propellant gun to simulate the impact of an iron and carbon-bearing meteorite, into a mixture of water and ammonia to mimic the chemistry of Earth’s early oceans. After the high-velocity impact, the team recovered a mixture of organic molecules, including a simple amino acid.

The group concludes that meteorite impact events, which were frequent on early Earth, may have contributed to the creation of complex organic molecules that formed the basis for life.

doi: 10.1038/ngeo383

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