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Exploring Space - The Quest for Life Exploring Space - The Quest for Life Exploring Space - The Quest for Life
Meteorites and Life - The Possible Relationship to Life

Did We Come From Comet Dust?

Murchison Meteorite Offers Some Clues

A fragment of the Murchison meteorite.
A fragment of the Murchison meteorite.
 

Comets and meteors have been raining debris on Earth for billions of years, and scientists think they just may be the vehicles that carried the "stuff of life" to the planet.

Early Earth was hostile to the origin of life and not at all rich in organic compounds. So how did these compounds become so abundant? Scientists think they may have come from space. For years scientists had been finding organic compounds in meteorites, but could not rule out the possibility that they were Earth-based contamination. Then, in 1969, the Murchison meteorite smashed into Australia. One of the oldest known remnants of the pre-Earth solar system, this meteorite played a pivotal role in confirming the presence of carbon molecules elsewhere in the universe.

Explore this timeline of the Murchison meteorite and the significant discoveries that may begin to answer the question of how life came to be here.


Introduction 4.5 billion years ago  - In the Beginning: Formation of the Solar System less that 4.5 billion years ago - Crumbs of Creation: Formation of the Oort Cloud less that 4.5 billion years ago - More Crumbs of Creation: Formation of the Asteroid Belt May 1848 - Louis Pasteur's Discovery: The Design of Life Feb. 1953 - Stanley Miller's Experiment: Sparking the Building Blocks of Life Sept. 28, 1969 - The Murchison Meteorite Meets Earth Feb. 14, 1997 - Discovering a Left-Handed Link to Space: Amino Acids Found in Meteorite Dec. 20, 2001 - A Sweet Discovery: Sugars Found in Murchison Today - The Research Continues Next