A Spanish-Italian team led by the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) has discovered that a class of meteorites known as carbonaceous chondrites are capable of synthesizing key organic compounds in prebiotic chemistry. Such catalytic properties are unknown in other rocks on Earth or other planetary bodies in the Solar System, this type of meteorites could have had an important role in the origin of life in the Universe. The results of the study have been published in the journal Scientific Reports. The meteorite samples analyzed in this work belong to NASA’s Antarctic collection and come from both asteroids and possibly comets. “Chondrites are undifferentiated meteorites, a fossil legacy from the creation of planetesimals, which provide us with information on the aggregation processes of the first formative blocks of the planets,
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but also on everything that happened in their interior shortly after their training ”, explains the CSIC researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences and the Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Georgia Email List Catalunya Josep María Trigo, who co-directed the study. The results of the work show the fundamental role of the water that soaked the asteroids progenitors of certain carbonaceous chondrites some 50 million years before the Earth was formed. Such processes promoted the synthesis of complex organic molecules in those asteroids that, upon reaching other planets, would have fertilized their surfaces with such prebiotic compounds. “The arrival of these meteorites is usually abrupt and causes the fragmentation of these meteorites and the degradation of organic compounds due to high temperatures. For this reason we decided to develop experiments capable of synthesizing organic
matter from the minerals of the chondrites, once they reach the soil and without necessarily surviving the original organic compounds ”adds Trigo. During the experiments, carried out at the University of Tuscia (Italy), the samples arrived from NASA’s Johnson Space Center were pulverized in a mortar, treated to eliminate any sign of organic matter and put in contact for 24 hours with formamide and thermal waters. and marine at 140 ° C previously filtered to avoid any contamination or presence of living organisms. “It is fascinating to see that chondrites have unique properties that allow their content of complex organic compounds to be reproduced in a short period of time if they are treated in an aqueous solution containing formamide. We could be before the discovery of the key chemical processes in the first steps towards the complexity of organic matter in the Universe.