Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tagish Meteorite May Hold Clues To The Origin Of Life

Organic Globules in the Tagish Lake Meteorite: Remnants of the Protosolar Disk. 2006. K. Nakamura-Messenger et al. Science 314: 1439-142.
Hollow spheres found in a primordial meteorite found at Tagish Lake could yield clues to the origin of life on Earth.

The globules could also be older than our Solar System - their chemistry suggests they formed at about -260C, near "absolute zero".

animation of Tagish meteorite smoke trail
Animated gif showing Tagish meteorite smoke trail recorded over 14 min. on Jan. 18, 2000. Credit: Ewald Lemke (Atlin Realty, Atlin, B.C.)

Analysis of the bubbles shows they arrived on Earth in the meteorite and are not terrestrial contaminants. These hollow spheres could have provided a protective envelope for the raw organic molecules needed for life.

Dr Lindsay Keller told BBC News that some scientists believed such structures were "a step in the right direction" to making a cell wall.

But he emphasised that the globules in Tagish Lake were in no way equivalent to a cell. The hollow spheres seem to be empty, but they do have organic molecules on their surfaces.

The Tagish Lake meteorite was collected immediately after its fall over Canada in 2000. It has been maintained in a frozen state, minimising the potential for terrestrial contamination.