In 2000, a man gathered two lbs of rock from a meteorite that crashed into the ice on Tagish Lake, in northern British Columbia, Canada. He kept them frozen until, in 2008, a Canadian research consortium bought them.
In “Meteorite hints at life’s origins: As debate continues to swirl around arsenic-loving bacteria, a space rock yields new astrobiological clues,” Tia Ghose (The Scientist , June 9, 2011) tells us,
Organic compounds from a meteorite may hold clues to the origin of life on Earth, according to a study published today (June 9) in Science. Water on the asteroid reacted with the rock to form organic compounds—including many scientists believe are the crucial ingredients that sparked life in Earth’s primordial oceans about 4 billion years ago.“It’s real evidence of hydro-synthesis occurring in asteroids and creating compounds that might be biologically useful,” said Mark Sephton, a geochemist at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study.
Analysis suggests the amino acids formed directly on the asteroid:
“You need a little bit of water, but not too much. There’s kind of a Goldilocks zone in there, a sweet spot.”
So sweet that the Canadian research consortium paid $850,000 to possibly add a clue to the tangled skein around the origin of life.