'Alien life may have hitchhiked to earth on meteorite'

Last Updated: Wed, Sep 11, 2013 05:51 hrs

Scientists have found that the Sutter's Mill meteorite, which exploded in a blazing fireball over California last year, contains organic molecules not previously found in any meteorites.

These findings, led by Sandra Pizzarello, a research professor in ASU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, suggest a far greater availability of extraterrestrial organic molecules than previously thought possible, an inventory that could indeed have been important in molecular evolution and life itself.

Coincidentally, Sutter's Mill is also the gold discovery site that led to the 1849 California Gold Rush.

Detection of the falling meteor by Doppler weather radar allowed for rapid recovery so that scientists could study for the first time a primitive meteorite with little exposure to the elements, providing the most pristine look yet at the surface of primitive asteroids.

"The analyses of meteorites never cease to surprise you ... and make you wonder," Pizzarello said.

"This is a meteorite whose organics had been found altered by heat and of little appeal for bio- or prebiotic chemistry, yet the very Solar System processes that lead to its alteration seem also to have brought about novel and complex molecules of definite prebiotic interest such as polyethers," she said.

The research is set to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

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