Organic Particles Found In Sutter’s Mill Meteorite Could Point To Origin Of Life On Earth

By Philip Ross on September 10, 2013 11:56 PM EDT

Fragments from Sutter's Mill meteorite collected April 24, 2012, two days after the rock smashed through Earth’s atmosphere and broke apart above California. Over the course of a few months, scientists reportedly collected about 77 meteorite fragments. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Did a meteorite bring life to Earth? After discovering organic particles in a meteorite that exploded above California last year, sending bits of debris falling to Earth's surface, researchers say it's definitely possible.

After the Sutter's Mill meteorite crashed through Earth's atmosphere in April 2012, it scattered pieces of meteorite debris all over a historic gold rush area in northern California near Placerville.

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Fragments from Sutter's Mill meteorite were collected two days after the rock smashed through Earth's atmosphere and broke apart above California. Over the course of a few months, scientists reportedly collected about 77 meteorite fragments.

The largest fragment recovered from the Sutter's Mill meteorite weighed just 205 grams, or about .45 pounds.

The Huffington Post reports that scientists have had an opportunity to analyze exactly what was inside the meteorite material. They dissolved some of the meteorite pieces in conditions similar to the hydrothermal vents that existed on Earth and believed to be where life on the planet originated.

When subjected to these conditions, the meteorites released organic compounds.  According to researchers, this is the first time we've seen this kind of organic matter inside a meteorite.

"Their composition therefore has always been seen as an indication that the precursors to the evolution that led to the origins of life could have come from the extraterrestrial material of meteorites," study lead author Sandra Pizzarello, a biochemist at Arizona State University in Tempe, told SPACE.com. "Since the origins of life are utterly unknown, the idea has its merits."

The scientists' findings are detailed in the Sept. 9 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more from iScience Times:

Moon Explosion: How Massive Was The Meteorite That Recently Collided With The Lunar Surface? [VIDEO]

Meteorite From Supernova That Formed Solar System: What Do Sand Grains Tell Us? [PHOTO]

Alien Life Discovered In Meteorite? Algae Fossils Found In Sri Lanka [VIDEO]

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