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In April 2012, a large meteorite streaked across the morning sky in California, with a sonic boom rattling houses up and down the San Joaquin Valley. Fragments of the exploding space rock came down around Sutter's Mill, California, the same place where prospectors discovered gold in California, sparking the 19th century gold rush.

Scientists working with samples of the meteorite subjected the rock to forensic examination looking for evidence of organic compounds. They're interested in learning just how common the basic building blocks for life are in the solar system. If those compounds are common, then life may have arisen on Earth quite easily. If rare, then it becomes harder to explain the mechanics of the origin of life.

It should be noted here that despite popular sentiment, neither result impacts the ultimate question of creation.

Biochemist Sandra Pizzarello from the Arizona State University in Tempe told Space.com, "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."

In other words, the molecules that form life on Earth may have come from elsewhere.

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