Meteorite brought basic building blocks of life to earth

Trajectory reconstructed

20. November 2022 13:17 Robert Klatt

  • Of the The Winchcombe Meteors became 2021 discovered shortly after its impact and therefore became hardly changed by the earth’s atmosphere
  • An analysis of the meteorite now showed that this alien water and Amino acids, a basic building block of life on earth that makes up DNAbrought to earth

Discovered in southern England in 2021, the Winchcombe meteorite brought extraterrestrial water and amino acids, a basic building block of life, from space to Earth.

London (England). On the night of March 1, 2021, a meteorite fell over the town of Winchcombe in south-west England. As Ashley King of the Natural History Museum explains, the Winchcombe meteorite is of great importance to science because its fragments were discovered quickly.

“The fact that it fell on a very clear night and in an area covered by many cameras allowed us to locate it quickly. Also, it was a dry week, so it was packed away quickly without being overly altered by Earth’s atmosphere.”

An analysis now published in the journal Science Advances shows that the Winchcombe meteorite brought extraterrestrial water and organic molecules from space to Earth.

Similar results for earlier meteorites

Analyzing earlier meteorites, scientists also discovered organic molecules and water. In these cases, however, it was not clear whether these actually came from space or whether the meteorites were contaminated in the Earth’s atmosphere or on Earth. Because the Winchcombe meteorite was nearly pristine and was discovered shortly after its impact, scientists at the Natural History Museum are confident that the water and organic molecules did not come from Earth.

History and Trajectory of the Winchcombe Meteorite

Because the meteorite was observed by multiple cameras before it fell, researchers were able to determine its trajectory and history. The Winchcombe meteorite was therefore part of a much larger asteroid for millions of years, which was located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. This was destroyed in a collision less than 300,000 years ago, in which the approximately 30 kg heavy Winchcombe meteorite was formed.

The collision sent the Winchcombe meteorite into low Earth orbit. He then collided with the earth unusually fast for astronomical conditions. Prior to impact, it was moving through the 13.5 km/s at 13.5 km/s. This is the lowest speed that has been determined for a meteorite so far.

Composition of water and organic molecules

Analysis of the isotopic structure of the water from the Winchcombe meteorite shows that it is very similar to Earth’s water. The researchers also discovered amino acids, a basic building block of life on Earth that makes up DNA. According to the authors, the meteorite thus supports a theory according to which carbonaceous asteroids brought amino acids to earth and were therefore essential for the emergence of life.

Science Advances, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abq3925